An integrated approach to site-specific management zone delineation

Yuxin Miao, David J. Mulla, Pierre C. Robert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Dividing fields into a few relatively homogeneous management zones (MZs) is a practical and costeffective approach to precision agriculture. There are three basic approaches to MZ delineation using soil and/or landscape properties, yield information, and both sources of information. The objective of this study is to propose an integrated approach to delineating site-specific MZ using relative elevation, organic matter, slope, electrical conductivity, yield spatial trend map, and yield temporal stability map (ROSE-YSTTS) and evaluate it against two other approaches using only soil and landscape information (ROSE) or clustering multiple year yield maps (CMYYM). The study was carried out on two no-till corn-soybean rotation fields in eastern Illinois, USA. Two years of nitrogen (N) rate experiments were conducted in Field B to evaluate the delineated MZs for site-specific N management. It was found that in general the ROSE approach was least effective in accounting for crop yield variability (8.0%-9.8%), while the CMYYM approach was least effective in accounting for soil and landscape (8.9%-38.1%), and soil nutrient and pH variability (9.4%- 14.5%). The integrated ROSE-YSTTS approach was reasonably effective in accounting for the three sources of variability (38.6%-48.9%, 16.1%-17.3% and 13.2%- 18.7% for soil and landscape, nutrient and pH, and yield variability, respectively), being either the best or second best approach. It was also found that the ROSE-YSTTS approach was effective in defining zones with high, medium and low economically optimum N rates. It is concluded that the integrated ROSE-YSTTS approach combining soil, landscape and yield spatial-temporal variability information can overcome the weaknesses of approaches using only soil, landscape or yield information, and is more robust for MZ delineation. It also has the potential for site-specific N management for improved economic returns. More studies are needed to further evaluate their appropriateness for precision N and crop management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)432-441
Number of pages10
JournalFrontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 1 2018


  • Economically optimum nitrogen rate
  • Fuzzy cluster analysis
  • Precision nitrogen management
  • Sitespecific management
  • Soil landscape property
  • Yield map

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