Low-Input Estimation of Site-Specific Lime Demand Based on Apparent Soil Electrical Conductivity and In Situ Determined Topsoil pH

Sensors (Basel). 2019 Nov 30;19(23):5280. doi: 10.3390/s19235280.


Site-specific liming helps increase efficiency in agricultural production. For adequate determination of the lime demand, a combination of apparent soil electrical conductivity (ECa) and topsoil pH can be used. Here, it was hypothesized that this can also be done at low-input level. Field measurements using the EM38 MK I (Geonics, Canada) were conducted on three experimental sites in north Germany in 2011. The topsoil pH was measured based on two approaches: on the field using a handheld pH meter (Spectrum-Technologies Ltd., Bridgend, UK) with a flat electrode (in situ), and in the lab using standard equipment (ex situ). Both soil ECa (0.4-35.9 mS m-1) and pH (5.13-7.41) were heterogeneously distributed across the sites. The same was true of the lime demand (-1.35-4.18 Mg ha-1). There was a significant correlation between in situ and ex situ determined topsoil pH (r = 0.89; p < 0.0001). This correlation was further improved through non-linear regression (r = 0.92; p < 0.0001). Thus, in situ topsoil pH was found suitable for map-overlay with ECa to determine the site-specific lime demand. Consequently, the hypothesis could be confirmed: The combined use of data from EM38 and handheld pH meters is a promising low-input approach that may help implement site-specific liming in developing countries.

Keywords: EM38; digital soil mapping; liming; precision farming; soil acidity.