The arable farmer as the assessor of within-field soil variation

S. Heijting, S. de Bruin, A.K. Bregt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Feasible, fast and reliable methods of mapping within-field variation are required for precision agriculture. Within precision agriculture research much emphasis has been put on technology, whereas the knowledge that farmers have and ways to explore it have received little attention. This research characterizes and examines the spatial knowledge arable farmers have of their fields and explores whether it is a suitable starting point to map the within-field variation of soil properties. A case study was performed in the Hoeksche Waard, the Netherlands, at four arable farms. A combination of semi-structured interviews and fieldwork was used to map spatially explicit knowledge of within-field variation. At each farm, a field was divided into internally homogeneous units as directed by the farmer, the soil of the units was sampled and the data were analysed statistically. The results show that the farmers have considerable spatial knowledge of their fields. Furthermore, they apply this knowledge intuitively during various field management activities such as fertilizer application, soil tillage and herbicide application. The sample data on soil organic matter content, clay content and fertility show that in general the farmers’ knowledge formed a suitable starting point for mapping within-field variation in the soil. Therefore, it should also be considered as an important information source for highly automated precision agriculture systems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)488-507
JournalPrecision Agriculture
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • management zones
  • electrical-conductivity
  • precision agriculture
  • calcium-chloride
  • knowledge
  • information
  • variability
  • maps
  • community


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