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Using GIS and Geostatistics to Optimize Soil Phosphorus and Magnesium Sampling in Temperate Grassland

Fu, Weijun1; Zhao, Keli1; Tunney, Hubert2; Zhang, Chaosheng3

doi: 10.1097/SS.0b013e31829d463b
Technical Article

Abstract: Soil sampling design is an important issue for agricultural management and environmental monitoring. In this study, a total of 537 soil samples were collected based on a 30 × 30–m grid from a permanent dairy farm in southeastern Ireland. Five different subsample experiments at lower densities based on the original data set were performed to study the optimal soil sampling design for soil P and Mg using geostatistics and a GIS (geographical information system). Soil P ranged from 1.3 to 35.7 mg L−1, with a CV value of 0.68. Soil Mg ranged from 134.7 to 685.2 mg L−1, with a small CV value of 0.28. Soil P followed neither a normal nor a lognormal distribution. Box-Cox transformation was applied to achieve normality. On the other hand, soil Mg followed a normal distribution, as did its subdata. For soil P, an omnidirectional spherical model was used to describe the spatial autocorrelation. For soil Mg, a nested model (an exponential model combined with a Gaussian model) was used to fit the variograms. Further soil P interpolated maps revealed that soil grid sampling interval could increase to 90 m without a significant loss of spatial information, whereas soil Mg sampling interval could increase to 120 m, confirming that soil Mg had much stronger spatial structure than soil P. According to this study, a grid of 90 × 90 m was recommended for soil sampling, which was confirmed in other practical grassland farms. The spatial structure information was very useful to optimize soil sampling design for practical grassland management.

1School of Environmental and Resource Sciences, Zhejiang Agriculture and Forestry University, Lin’an, Zhejiang Province, China.

2Teagasc, Johnstown Castle Research Centre, Wexford, Ireland.

3School of Geography and Archaeology, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland.

Address for correspondence: Keli Zhao, School of Environmental and Resource Sciences, Zhejiang Agriculture and Forestry University, Lin’an, Zhejiang Province 311300, China; E-mail:

Financial Disclosures/Conflicts of Interest: This work was financially supported by the Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 41201538, No. 41201323), the Teagasc Walsh Fellowship, the Young Teacher Innovative Group Foundation of Zhejiang Agriculture and Forest University (2010RC03), and the Startup Foundation for Introducing Talents of Zhejiang Agriculture and Forestry University (2010FR073).

Received January 22, 2013.

Accepted for publication May 21, 2013.

© 2013Wolters Kluwer Health | Lippincott Williams & Wilkins