Year of Publication


Document Type





Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering

First Advisor

Scott A. Shearer


The popularity of variable-rate technology (VRT) has grown. However, the limitations and errors ofthis technology are generally unknown. Therefore, a spatial data model was developed to generate "asapplied"surfaces to advance precision agricultural (PA) practices. A test methodology based on ASAEStandard S341.2 was developed to perform uniform-rate (UR) and variable-rate (VR) tests to characterizedistribution patterns testing four VRT granular applicators (two spinner spreaders and two pneumaticapplicators). Single-pass UR patterns exhibited consistent shapes for three of the applicators with patternsshifts observed for the fourth applicator. Simulated overlap analysis showed that three of the applicatorsperformed satisfactorily with most CVs less than 20% while one applicator performed poorly (CVs andgt;25%). The spinner spreaders over-applied at the margins but the pneumatic applicators under-appliedsuggesting a required adjustment to the effective swath spacing. Therefore, it is recommended that CVsaccompany overlap pattern plots to ensure proper calibration of VRT application.Quantification of the rate response characteristics for the various applicators illustrated varying delayand transition times. Only one applicator demonstrated consistent delay and transition times. A sigmoidalfunction was used to model the rate response for applicators. One applicator exhibited a linear responseduring a decreasing rate change. Rate changes were quicker for the two newer VR control systemssignifying advancement in hydraulic control valve technology. This research illustrates the need forstandard testing protocols for VRT systems to help guide VRT software developers, equipmentmanufacturers, and users.The spatial data model uses GIS functionality to merge applicator descriptive patterns with a spatialfield application file (FAF) to generate an 'as-applied' surface representing the actual distribution ofgranular fertilizer. Field data was collected and used to validate the "as-applied" spatial model.Comparisons between the actual and predicted application rates for several fields were madedemonstrating good correlations for one applicator (several R2 andgt; 0.70), moderate success for anotherapplicator (0.60 andlt; R2 andlt; 0.66), and poor relationships for the third applicator (R2 andlt; 0.49). A comparison ofthe actual application rates to the prescription maps generated R2 values between 0.16 and 0.81demonstrating inconsistent VRT applicator performance. Thus, "as-applied" surfaces provide a means toproperly evaluate VRT while enhancing researchers' ability to compare VR management approaches.