Potential - Variable rate irrigation and nitrogen fertilization in Potato; engage the spatial variation

Project Website

 pieter janssens

Coordinator: Pieter Janssens

Projects  Partner and Institution:
Soil Service of Belgium,
Université de Liège Aarhus University Fasterholt Maskinfabrik,
Forschungszentrum Jülich,
Agricultural University Wageningen 

Key words

Abstract: With a total acreage of more than 5 200 km² in all four countries, potato is an important agricultural crop in Belgium, Denmark, The Netherlands and Germany. In the participating countries percolation water contains NO3--concentrations higher than 25 mg/l so they have a common interest in reducing N-leaching and increasing the water use efficiency by irrigation in potato fields. It is expected that irrigation in potato will be crucial in the future to maintain stable yields as scenarios predict an increased occurrence of climatic extremes. The objective of the proposed POTENTIAL (“Variable rate irrigation and nitrogen fertilization in Potato; engage the spatial variation.”) project is to increase N and water use efficiency in potato. Innovative precision farming solutions are used to meet this objective. Spatio-temporal variation in water and N deficit in potato fields is revealed using various data sources (satellite, drone, EMI, tractor-mounted sensors, …). The combination of these different types of information on above-and below-ground crop and soil information opens up new opportunities for a sound decision making. The project envisages the translation of years of research on mapping the variability in crop vitality and soil condition to specific task maps for farmers in order to optimize their management. The consortium is multidisciplinary, which guarantees a short loop feedback and a broad distribution of the research results over all stakeholders. POTENTIAL will lead to the adoption of management practices with increased water and nutrient use efficiency in potato cultivation in Europe.

Project structure: In the first year field trials in farmers’ fields in Belgium, The Netherlands, and Denmark are set up by Soil Service of Belgium, Wageningen University & Research, and Aarhus University respectively. A range of state-of-the art and beyond sensors will be applied to characterize spatio-temporal variations in soil and crop at different potato farms. The sensors will be satellite, drone and tractor-borne including spectral systems as on the Sentinel satellite and combined as in the double reflectance-laser gap fraction analysis sensor  developed by AU for determination of N uptake in crops. Soil moisture and soil nitrate content is collected in situ, and compared with ECa maps obtained with multi-configuration EMI soil scanners (Forschungszentrum Jülich, Université de Liège, AU) and a tractor mounted TDR soil water content mapping system developed at AU. Output from these sensor systems will be related to in-field crop response maps to water and N stress as well as yield. Classical agronomic recommendation services for irrigation and nitrogen management in the four partnering countries will be listed and assessed. A way of practice will be outlined indicating how spatial information can be integrated into the classical agronomic recommendations for irrigation and fertilization. Special attention will be given to the investigation of spectral information to distinguish between nitrogen and water deficits and their relation to soil properties. In the second year of the project, field trials will be set up following a split design where one part of the field is fertilized and irrigated homogeneously. In the other part variable rate irrigation and N fertilization is conducted following the variable rate decision support systems (DSS) developed in year 1. Soil moisture, soil nitrogen and yield are collected in both parts of the field. Water use efficiency and nitrogen use efficiency is calculated and compared between both parts of the field. For the implementation of the variable application of water and nitrogen the consortium has the assistance of Jacob Van den Borne in the Netherlands. Jacob Van Den Borne is a potato farmer and is equipped with machinery that allows variable N fertilization, as well as a Fasterholt irrigation gun. The Danish SME Fasterholt Maskinfabrik A/S is an experienced manufacturer of raingun machines primarily for the European market. Fasterholt is currently developing a variable rate raingun with GPS positioning, with the ability to adjust for wind-deflection and to direct the gun according to pre- programmed maps of desired surface application rates.

Implementation: During POTENTIAL, SSB, VITO, Ulg, FZJ and AU are responsible for the data collection on the field trials as described in the workplan (WP1). During the project, data sharing between partners is essential to obtain new insights in the added value of the improved precision farming. The manual, developed during the project, will include the contact persons, appointed for each parameter, for external data exchange.

Outcome/deliverables: The following output will be provided during the POTENTIAL project, as integrated in WP 4:

  • Manual for variable rate application of N and water in potato with link to all open field crops in Western-Europe as described in previous paragraph,
  • Link to existing precision farming platforms (,
  • Training of farmers, agricultural consultants by the organization of workshops and field visits. During the project multiple events will be organized in Belgium, The Netherlands, Denmark,
  • International scientific contributions in journals and at conferences,
  • Website with full description of project objectives, partners, funding agencies and project results.

References coordinator and  leaders of  each WP:
Pieter Janssens,
Isabelle Piccard,
Mathias N Andersen,
Sarah Garre,
Jan Kamp,
Christian Von Hebel

Contact Point for  Communication/Dissemination activities: Pieter Janssens

Contact Point for Open Data/Open Access activities: Pieter Janssens

Picture of the research team:
research team

Results of the project: Data and resources

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published on 2017/03/23 10:00:00 GMT+1 last modified 2019-08-05T15:33:31+01:00