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Agronomy 2018, 8(5), 78; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy8050078

Challenges in Using Precision Agriculture to Optimize Symbiotic Nitrogen Fixation in Legumes: Progress, Limitations, and Future Improvements Needed in Diagnostic Testing

Department of Plant Agriculture, University of Guelph, 50 Stone Road East, Guelph, ON N1G 2W1, Canada
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Received: 12 March 2018 / Revised: 10 May 2018 / Accepted: 16 May 2018 / Published: 21 May 2018
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Abstract

Precision agriculture (PA) has been used for ≥25 years to optimize inputs, maximize profit, and minimize negative environmental impacts. Legumes play an important role in cropping systems, by associating with rhizobia microbes that convert plant-unavailable atmospheric nitrogen into usable nitrogen through symbiotic nitrogen fixation (SNF). However, there can be field-level spatial variability for SNF activity, as well as underlying soil factors that influence SNF (e.g., macro/micronutrients, pH, and rhizobia). There is a need for PA tools that can diagnose spatial variability in SNF activity, as well as the relevant environmental factors that influence SNF. Little information is available in the literature concerning the potential of PA to diagnose/optimize SNF. Here, we critically analyze SNF/soil diagnostic methods that hold promise as PA tools in the short–medium term. We also review the challenges facing additional diagnostics currently used for research, and describe the innovations needed to move them forward as PA tools. Our analysis suggests that the nitrogen difference method, isotope methods, and proximal and remote sensing techniques hold promise for diagnosing field-level variability in SNF. With respect to soil diagnostics, soil sensors and remote sensing techniques for nitrogen, phosphorus, pH, and salinity have short–medium term potential to optimize legume SNF under field conditions. View Full-Text
Keywords: legume; symbiotic nitrogen fixation; precision agriculture; sensors; satellite and UAS imagery; variable rate application; site specific management legume; symbiotic nitrogen fixation; precision agriculture; sensors; satellite and UAS imagery; variable rate application; site specific management
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).
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Thilakarathna, M.S.; Raizada, M.N. Challenges in Using Precision Agriculture to Optimize Symbiotic Nitrogen Fixation in Legumes: Progress, Limitations, and Future Improvements Needed in Diagnostic Testing. Agronomy 2018, 8, 78.

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