Soil Mapping

For Agricultural Applications

What is Soil Mapping?

Soil mapping is the process of locating and identifying soil properties for the purpose of generating zone maps for soil-based fertilizer and seed applications. Soil mapping is conducted by driving a soil sensor (such as a SWAT Box) across a field to collect soil electrical conductivity, elevation, and topography data. Soil mapping using the patented SWAT Maps technology produces the world’s most high-definition soil type maps.

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Soil Maps vs. Imagery Maps

Soil-Based Zone Maps

Maps of yield potential and nutrient responsiveness

Based on soil variability

Most useful for applications to the soil (e.g., fertilizer and seed)

Do not change over time; based on stable soil characteristics

Influenced by elevation, topography, soil electrical conductivity, water flow, organic matter

Requires soil mapping conducted using soil sensors driven over the field

Explains “why” the variability exists

Imagery or Yield-Based Maps

Maps of vegetative health and biomass (NDVI) or yield

Based on crop variability

Most useful for in-season applications to the crop (e.g., herbicide, fungicide)

Vary year-over-year; only relative to one specific point in time

Influenced by crop type, weeds, climate, nutrients, pests, disease, etc.

Images generated by satellites or maps created by yield monitors on combines

Illustrates “what” variability exists and “where”

Soil-Based Mapping and Zone Management

Accurately Delineate Soil Zones

SWAT Maps soil-based zone maps combine water driven yield potential and nutrient responsiveness for variable-rate fertility. Soil responsiveness and yield potential are independent of each other, so basing soil-applied nutrients on yield is not properly informed. A high yielding area does not always respond to nutrients, nor does a low yielding area always respond poorly.

Model Water Flow and Accumulation

Water is the root cause of most soil variability, so soil mapping is extremely valuable for generating data on soil organic matter and electrical conductivity. Water is the driver of yield potential, so it makes sense that management zones be based on landscape position, water flow, and soil texture. 

Long-Term Solutions Based on Stable Factors

Soil-based zone maps such as SWAT Maps are long-term solutions because they are based on stable soil characteristics that do not change from year to year. Once a field has been mapped, it typically doesn't ever have to be mapped again.

SWAT Maps: Patented Soil-Based Zone Management System

SWAT Maps are management zone maps derived using multiple layers of field data including soil, water, and topography factors.

Due to their ability to delineate yield potential and nutrient response, SWAT Maps enable us to apply proven soil science principles spatially within a field and at a higher resolution of management compared to traditional field management practices.

Process of Creating Soil Maps

Step 1: Soil Mapping

The first step of creating SWAT Maps is to map the field using our patented SWAT BOX autonomous soil mapping unit and SWAT Records software system. SWAT Box collects soil electrical conductivity and elevation and automatically uploads it to the SWAT Records server where the map developers can then access the data for the next step of the process.

Step 2: Zone and Layer Development

Many layers of information are developed including normalized EC, topography, depressions, and water flows. From these layers, a selection of varying SWAT zone maps are synchronized to the SWAT Records app for an agronomist to ground-truth.

Step 3: Ground-Truthing

Ground-truthing is the most important step in the SWAT Maps process; the precision agronomist drives the field and selects a map that best represents the soil properties, water and salinity patterns, and topography of the field. This becomes the field’s SWAT map.

What People Say

“They have a really strong map. Dad said it best: ‘I have been going over that land for the last 40 years and couldn’t have drawn it better myself!’”

Jeff Bennett

Bone Trail Land Co.

“I mapped a field and had the zone maps back within an hour! Those guys are rock stars!”

Codey Begley

SWAT MAPS Partner

“With SWAT Maps, they don’t just make the maps and send them to the grower. An agronomist like myself is there to check the maps and if something doesn’t make sense, we can confirm why that is. That’s why I choose SWAT Maps.”

Niki Beingessner

Independent Agronomist