Sustainability, Vol. 11, Pages 7084: Soil Properties Spatial Variability and Delineation of Site-Specific Management Zones Based on Soil Fertility Using Fuzzy Clustering in a Hilly Field in Jianyang, Sichuan, China (Sustainability)
Avoiding soil degradation and improving crop productivity could be achieved by performing sustainable soil nutrient management with an appropriate understanding of soil properties’ spatial variability. The present fertilizer recommendations for the region where the study area is located are typically symmetric for large regions. This leads to the under-application of fertilizers in zones with low nutrient contents and over-application in zones with high nutrient contents. Therefore, this study was conducted to assess soil management zones (MZs) in the study area for effective soil nutrient management and to evaluate soil properties’ spatial variability. A total of 100 geo-referenced soil samples were collected at a depth of 0–20 cm, processed and analyzed for pH, available nitrogen (AN), available phosphorus (AP), available potassium (AK), soil organic carbon (SOC), total nitrogen (TN) and total phosphorous (TP), while C:N, C:P and N:P ratios were calculated. Soil properties’ coefficients of variation (CVs) widely varied from low (1.132%) to moderate (45.748%). Ordinary kriging and semi-variogram analysis showed differed spatial variability patterns for the studied soil properties with spatial dependence ranged from weak to strong. MZs were delineated by performing principal component analysis (PCA) and fuzzy K-means clustering. Four PCs with eigen values more than 1 dominated 84.44% of the total variance, so they were retained for clustering analysis. Three MZs were delineated based on the two criteria modified partition entropy (MPE) and fuzzy performance index (FPI). The studied soil properties differed significantly among MZs. Thus, the methodology used for MZ delineation could be used effectively for soil site-specific nutrient management for avoiding soil degradation concurrently with maximizing crop production in the study area.