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Utilizing Remotely Piloted Air Systems in the Delineation of Functional Land Management Zones



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Global food production must increase significantly before 2050 to ensure food security. This necessitates the intensification of agriculture to keep with land resource constraints. Meanwhile, climate change is occurring, and these two factors are exerting pressure on the medium through which food production occurs: the soil. Soil provides many of the ecosystem services provided by farmland and is essential for functions such as food production, water storage, carbon cycling and storage, functional and intrinsic biodiversity, as well as nutrient cycling. In order for agriculture to intensify sustainably, these soil functions must be maintained. However, we do not currently have a baseline measure of the overall functions soils are providing which is needed in order to track how climate change and agricultural intensification are impacting the soil. Precision agriculture provides an avenue to achieve this and management zones are essential to precision agriculture. Traditional methods of sampling to gather soil information are labor intensive and time consuming; it is necessary to find faster alternatives. Remote sensing and digital soil mapping (DSM) are two technologies with great potential for quickly gathering soil information at large spatial scales. The objectives of this study were to: 1) test remote sensing methods for the interpolation of surficial soil organic carbon using a remotely piloted air system (RPAS); and 2) develop a method of management zone delineation that accounts for multiple soil functions. Remote sensing was found to be the most effective at estimating soil organic carbon (SOC) through the use of DSM. SOC and topography were found to be key factors for multiple soil functions. These factors were used to develop a management zone delineation method that was indicative of multiple soil functions. An RPAS is not necessary for this method but remote sensing data is essential. This method assists land users to, within a familiar framework, quickly estimate and manage for multiple soil functions. It produces a measure of soil health that enables land productivity and value to be maximized while providing the opportunity to respond timely to the effects of climate change and agricultural intensification.



Management, Zones, Soil, Function, Organic, Carbon, Topography, Remote, Sensing, Remotely, Piloted, Air, System



Master of Science (M.Sc.)


Soil Science


Soil Science


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