Mapping soil texture with a gamma-ray spectrometer: comparison between UAV and proximal measurements and traditional sampling : validation study

F.M. van Egmond, S. van der Veeke, M. Knotters, R.I. Koomans, D.J.J. Walvoort, J. Limburg

Research output: Book/ReportReportProfessional


The need for up-to-date soil information for e.g. spatial planning, infrastructure, agriculture and nature conservation has resulted in the Dutch Key Registration of the Subsurface (BRO), which also contains the 1: 50,000 soil map of the Netherlands. Classifying properties for this map are a.o. related to soil texture. Therefore, methods are needed that efficiently and effectively measure these at the right scale level and with the required accuracy. This report describes a validation study into the possibility, accuracy and costs of mapping clay and loam content of the tillage layer (0 - 30 cm) by augering, by measuring gamma radiation from a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle or drone) or on foot. The research was carried out in an agricultural area of 40 ha in the Flevoland polder, the Netherlands. The results show that the accuracy and precision of the UAV and soil-bound measurements is largely comparable. A higher point density and smaller spatial support of the ground-bound sensor have a positive effect on capturing spatial patterns, accuracy and precision. After correction for the difference in point density, results are comparable. The difference in deployment costs is limited. The effect of the use of a national reference calibration set on costs and accuracy is a lot bigger and lowers both. However, when using national calibration scale accuracy could be increased with the inclusion of more soil geographic situations. We advise assessing similar questions by first assessing the required accuracy, measurement depth and resolution, then select possible platforms and choose calibration scale within budget limits. Gamma radiation measurements for mapping soil texture is potentially a scalable and cost-efficient technique for supporting actualisation of the Soil Map of the Netherlands and for applications with higher resolution such as precision agriculture and local spatial planning..
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationWageningen
PublisherStatutory Research Tasks Unit for Nature & the Environment
Number of pages56
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Publication series

NameWOt-technical report
ISSN (Print)2352-2739


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