Agitated soil measurement method for integrated on-the-go mapping of soil pH, potassium and nitrate contents

B. Sethuramasamyraja, V. I. Adamchuk, A. Dobermann, D. B. Marx, D. D. Jones, G. E. Meyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Knowledge of spatial variability of soil attributes within an agricultural field is critical for successful site-specific crop management. Soil sensing techniques to assess this variability on-the-go are being developed as an alternative to tedious manual soil sampling and laboratory testing. The goal of this study was to evaluate an Agitated Soil Measurement (ASM) method for integrated on-the-go mapping of soil pH, soluble potassium and residual nitrate contents using ion-selective electrodes. To implement ASM, an Integrated Agitation Chamber Module (IACM) was developed and attached to a commercial soil pH mapping implement. Precision of the tested electrodes was assessed through the root mean squared error (RMSE) and ranged from 0.10 for pK to 0.22 for pNO3 (units represent the negative base 10 logarithm of the molar concentration of specified ions). The accuracy of the electrodes was assessed by comparing test results against reference measurements conducted in a commercial soil laboratory using the linear regression method. Average accuracy error ranged from 0.11 for pK to 0.23 for pNO3. In a field simulation test, neither precision nor accuracy errors obtained with ASM were lower than for a previously investigated Direct Soil Measurement (DSM) method, which produced precision errors ranging from 0.11 for pH to 0.22 for pNO3 and accuracy errors ranging from 0.12 for pNO3 to 0.20 for pH. The coefficients of determination (r2) of linear regressions between individual field simulation measurements and corresponding average reference measurements were 0.85-0.89 (pH), 0.50-0.54 (pK), and 0.14-0.32 (pNO3). However, laboratory evaluation of the ASM method revealed substantially lower measurement errors and increased r2 values when compared to the field simulation, indicating that the proposed ASM method retains the potential for improving on-the-go field mapping. Except for reduced electrode abuse and the ability to use less expensive half-cell ion-selective electrodes, physical implementation of ASM through the IACM did not bring substantial improvement over conventionally available DSM. This could be attributed to the design of the IACM and use of half-cell electrodes. Further research is necessary to improve the design of the solution-based measuring equipment and to develop an algorithm integrating on-the-go measurements with other sources of spatial data for an improved decision-making process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)212-225
Number of pages14
JournalComputers and Electronics in Agriculture
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Ion-selective electrode
  • Nitrate-nitrogen
  • Potassium
  • Precision agriculture
  • Soil sensor
  • pH

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Horticulture


Dive into the research topics of 'Agitated soil measurement method for integrated on-the-go mapping of soil pH, potassium and nitrate contents'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this