Are You Overlooking the Soil-Plant-Atmosphere Continuum?

Let’s consider that a continuum is an environment where everything is interconnected; variables of that environment are not partitioned off or segmented. Every aspect of that continuum is interrelated and influencing one another. When you look at a management work zone in ag as a continuum, we can identify how the soil, plant and atmosphere are all connected (see Figure 1).

Soil-Plant-Atmosphere Continuum
Figure 1 – Soil-Plant-Atmosphere Continuum

 

In Figure 1, let’s assume the ag management work zone has one crop type with similar soil texture class throughout, and same variations through the vertical (atmosphere). By treating the soil, plant or atmosphere independently from one another, you risk the possibility of overlooking the impact of one aspect on another inside the continuum.

For instance, in Figure 1, it is clear that the occurrence of rain affects multiple aspects of the soil-plant-atmosphere continuum. With rainfall occurring in the atmosphere component, it can impact both the ground and the crop canopy. Evaporation could occur. If a slope is present, runoff may occur. If runoff isn’t likely, there could be potential for rainfall to infiltrate into the ground depending on soil texture class and other characteristics of the soil surface. Even then, water may stay in the crop root zone and impact the crop, or percolate through to deeper soil layers. In cases where solar radiation is present, other impacts may occur (evaporation, heating of the soil surface, etc.).

So how do you ensure you are creating the best soil-plant-atmosphere continuum and therefore, minimizing crop damage and producing high yields? With ag management work zones, agribusinesses should consider taking steps towards an integrated approach and avoid treating aspects of work zones in isolation of one another.

In many cases, agribusinesses are using one tool for one activity (i.e., plant growth stage estimation) and another tool for another activity (i.e., pest and disease occurrence). These tools are utilized independently from one another, possibly because they are created by different vendors or are part of different product suites. In the end, users have a collection of disjointed datasets that miss the benefit of a connected approach.

Watch Part III of our Analytics and Agriculture webinar series, “Focusing on Ag Management Zones”, on demand to learn more about how you can take steps towards a connected management zone approach.

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