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 POTENTIAL :Variable rate irrigation and nitrogen fertilization in Potato

(Nederlandse versie hieronder)

This project is part of the European ProgramJPI 2016 Sustainable Management of Water Resources in Agriculture, Forestry and Freshwater Aquaculture. (ERA-NET Waterworks http://www.waterjpi.eu)

Agricultural irrigation consumes huge amounts of fresh water and even in north Europe often account for more than 50% of withdrawals in dry summers. Savings of even small proportions of these withdrawals are therefore important with respect to improving environmental waterflows and the supply for human consumption. However, not only quantity but also quality of our water resources is impacted by farming operations. Better assessment of crops’ uptake and optimal supply of nitrogen (N) to avoid over-fertilization should substantially reduce losses and subsequent N pollution of soil and aquifers. Improved spatial and temporal application of water and nitrogen and especially co-scheduling of the two growth factors is possible by better sensing, ICT and improved application devices and strategies

The objective of the proposed POTENTIAL project is to increase N and water use efficiency in potato by co-scheduling of N and irrigation water. This objective implies the reduction of water percolation and N leaching out of the soil profile. Innovative sensing solutions and application technologies are used to meet this objective. Four specific goals are set:

  1. Assess spatio-temporal variation in water and N deficit in potato fields using various data sources (satellite, drone, EMI, tractor-mounted sensors to collect information on crop and soil state variables).
  2. Distinguish between water stress and nitrogen deficiencies and quantify these in potato crops through sensor technology.
  3. Integrate information about the spatial variation in operational services for co-scheduling irrigation and N fertilization.
  4. Develop, apply and assess variable rate irrigation and N fertilization based on this integrated service.

Despite the obvious benefits from precision farming, the adoption rate amongst farmers is currently only modest. The POTENTIAL project aims at moving some of the barriers identified by Tey and Brindal (2012)e.g. providing ready-to-use spatial information and enhancing availability of ready-to-use variable rate application technology.


In this project, we will combine pedological, hydrological, crop ecophysiological, geophysical and remote sensing expertise which will allow building a strong foundation for optimal exploitation of geophysical and multispectral data, such as EMI and satellite sensed reflectance.

  • Soil Service of Belgium (SSB) has a track record of participatory research in farmer recommendation for irrigation and fertilization. Project results will permit SSB to elaborate current fertilization, and irrigation guidelines for its committed potato growers. SSB will assist the consortium with its state-of-the-art expert models for N and irrigation recommendation.
  • VITO has a long experience in deriving vegetation indices and biophysical parameters (LAI, fAPAR, fCover, biomass) from aerial and satellite images ranging from centimeter to kilometer scale, and in using this information for crop monitoring. The intra-field variability that is visible from the images will be further linked with observed patterns of water and N-deficit in potato trials.
  • ULg has built up international visibility with the application of geophysical methods to monitor soil-plant interactions. Next to extensive use of electrical resistivity tomography (ERT) and electro-magnetic induction (EMI) in lab and/or field conditions by the Water-Soil-Plant team in Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech, the Applied Geophysics unit has extensive experience with a range of geophysical methods, such as EMI, ERT, GPR, NMR, etc. in a variety of contexts.
  • FZJ (Forschungszentrum Jülich) has extensive experience in the development of EMI and GPR imaging and inversion methodologies and their application for non-invasive imaging of the subsurface in several multi-disciplinary projects with a special focus on hydrogeophysics.
  • AU (Aarhus University) has a strong record in irrigation research with a focus on potato crops and the interaction between water and N as well as site specific management of these growth factors.
  • Fasterholt is the leading Danish manufacturer of rainguns with a current development focus on variable rate application.
  • PPO-AGV (Wageningen Applied Plant Research) has been involved in research and development of DSS for irrigation planning and more recently on split Nitrogen application in ware potatoes based on crop sensing (in the testing phase). The group working on precision agriculture within Wageningen has also wide experience with all kind of crop and soil sensing. PPO-AGV always works in close cooperation with farmers and extension services as well as agricultural software providers.

Presentations : Presentation Kick-off_Stockholm_POTENTIAL.pdf

1Tey YS, Brindal M. (2012) Factors influencing the adoption of precision agricultural technologies: a review for policy implications. Precision Agriculture 13: 713-730.

POTENTIAL : Variablerate irrigation and nitrogen fertilization inPotato

Dit project kadert in het Europese programma JPI 2016 Sustainable management of waterresources in agriculture, forestry and fresh water aquaculture sectors. (ERA-NET Waterworks http://www.waterjpi.eu)


Meteen areaal van 45 000 ha verspreid over 8100 aardappeltelers (Bergen et al., 2015)neemt de aardappelteelt een belangrijke plaats in binnen de Vlaamse akkerbouw. België is wereldwijd de grootste exporteur van diep gevroren verwerkte aardappelproducten.

Ondanks het feit dat bijna 1 op 3 landbouwbedrijven in Vlaanderen aardappelen teelt, is de rentabiliteit voor de teler niet verzekerd. De enige zekerheid die de teler heeft is dat hij een hoger bedrijfsrendement kan behalen door zijn opbrengst per hectare te verhogen. Dit kan door de productiemiddelen stikstof (N) en water op een beredeneerde manier te gebruiken. De hoge input aan N zorgt echter ook voor een belasting op het milieu. Op aardappelpercelen wordt, vergeleken met andere teelten, een zeer hoog nitraatresidu gemeten (VLM, 2015). Bovendien is het wortelstelsel ondiep waardoor het risico op uitspoeling van nitraat naar oppervlakte- en grondwater groot is.


Het project wordt gesteund de Vlaamse Overheid, Boerenbond, Belgapom, Agrometius en Yara Benelux.

Periode: 1/04/2017 – 31/03/2020

Interneprojectcode: P/OO/312

Presentaties: POTENTIAL presentatie.pdf

2  Bergen D., Deuninck J., Vrints G., &Van der Straeten B. (2015) Aardappelen – Rentabiliteits- en kostprijsanalyse opbasis van het Landbouwmonitoringsnetwerk, Departement Landbouw en Visserij,Brussel. Depotnummer: D/2015/3241/320

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