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Evaluating Soil-Borne Causes of Biomass Variability in Grassland by Remote and Proximal Sensing (2019.0)

Vogel S., Gebbers R., Oertel M., Kramer E.

Sensors, 19 (20), 4593



On a grassland field with sandy soils in Northeast Germany (Brandenburg), vegetation indices from multi-spectral UAV-based remote sensing were used to predict grassland biomass productivity. These data were combined with soil pH value and apparent electrical conductivity (ECa) from on-the-go proximal sensing serving as indicators for soil-borne causes of grassland biomass variation. The field internal magnitude of spatial variability and hidden correlations between the variables of investigation were analyzed by means of geostatistics and boundary-line analysis to elucidate the influence of soil pH and ECa on the spatial distribution of biomass. Biomass and pH showed high spatial variability, which necessitates high resolution data acquisition of soil and plant properties. Moreover, boundary-line analysis showed grassland biomass maxima at pH values between 5.3 and 7.2 and ECa values between 3.5 and 17.5 mS m−1. After calibrating ECa to soil moisture, the ECa optimum was translated to a range of optimum soil moisture from 7% to 13%. This matches well with to the plant-available water content of the predominantly sandy soil as derived from its water retention curve. These results can be used in site-specific management decisions to improve grassland biomass productivity in low-yield regions of the field due to soil acidity or texture-related water scarcity. Intelligence for Soil