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Soil Mapping Study Shows Data To Help Corn Producers

Corn producers may be able to better predict yield for specific parts of fields or large tracts of land using the results of a mapping research study.

University of Missouri Extension corn specialist Brent Myers said researchers from MU, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) and DuPont Pioneer are about halfway through the three-year study.

Researchers study how maps, technology and expertise can help producers in the Corn Belt plan seeding rates, nitrogen needs and hybrid selection for specific areas of cropland.

“All of these agronomy decisions start with the soil,” Myers said.

Yield data from more than 400 Midwestern cornfields compares 80 years of county soil maps from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service with environmental response unit (ERU) maps. ERUs are soil-mapping units that offer high-resolution information about a field.

The project uses public soil databases, proprietary analytics from DuPont Pioneer, high-resolution elevation data, and information on soil types, topography and watersheds from MU and USDA-ARS.

“The study found that ERU maps provided better representation of corn yield environments than soil maps did in 80 percent of the fields,” said Myers. ERU maps consider soil depth, texture, organic matter and water-holding capacity—all factors that affect crop production costs and yield.

The research team will submit results to a scientific journal for publication. “Our intent is to bring the best of this public-private collaboration to bear on the challenge of sustainability and productivity for U.S. growers,” said USDA-ARS soil scientist Newell Kitchen, who is based on the MU campus.

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