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Underlying causes of yield spatial variability and potential for precision management in rice systems


Our current understanding of the mechanisms driving spatiotemporal yield variability in rice systems is insufficient for effective management at the sub-field scale. The overall objective of this study was to evaluate the potential of precision management for rice production. The spatiotemporal properties of multiyear yield monitor data from four rice fields, representing varying soil types and locations within the primary rice growing region in California, were quantified and characterized. The role of water management, land-leveling, and the spatial distribution of soil properties in driving yield heterogeneity was explored. Mean yield and coefficient of variation at the sampling points within each field ranged from 9.2 to 12.1 Mg ha-1 and from 7.1 to 14.5 %, respectively. Using a k-means clustering and randomization method, temporally stable yield patterns were identified in three of the four fields. Redistribution of dissolved organic carbon, nitrogen, potassium and salts by lateral flood water movement was observed across all fields, but was only related to yield variability via exacerbating areas with high soil salinity. The effects of cold water temperature and land-leveling on yield variability were not observed. Soil electrical conductivity and/or plant available phosphorus were identified as the underlying causes of the within-field yield patterns using classification and regression trees. Our results demonstrate that while the high temporal yield variability in some rice fields does not permit precision management, in other fields exhibiting stable yield patterns with identifiable causes, precision management and modified water management may improve the profitability and resource-use efficiency of rice production systems. © 2013 Springer Science+Business Media New York.

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