Field-scale spatial variability of soil calcium in a semi-arid region: Implications for soil erosion and site-specific management

Yazhou SUN, Wenxuan GUO, David C. WEINDORF, Fujun SUN, Sanjit DEB, Guofeng CAO, Jasmine NEUPANE, Zhe LIN, Abir RAIHAN

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Excess calcium (Ca) in soils of semi-arid and arid regions has negative effects on soil structure and chemical properties, which limits the crop root growth as well as the availability of soil water and nutrients. Quantifying the spatial variability of soil Ca contents may reveal factors influencing soil erosion and provide a basis for site-specific soil and crop management in semi-arid regions. This study sought to assess the spatial variability of soil Ca in relation to topography, hydraulic attributes, and soil types for precision soil and crop management in a 194-ha production field in the Southern High Plains of Texas, USA. Soils at four depth increments (0–2, 0–15, 15–30, and 30–60 cm) were sampled at 232 points in the spring of 2017. The Ca content of each sample was determined with a DP-6000 Delta Premium portable X-ray fluorescence (PXRF) spectrometer. Elevation data was obtained using a real-time kinematic GPS receiver with centimeter-level accuracy. A digital elevation model (DEM) was derived from the elevation data, and topographic and hydraulic attributes were generated from this DEM. A generalized least-squares model was then developed to assess the relationship between soil Ca contents of the four layers and the topographic and hydraulic attributes. Results showed that topographic attributes, especially slope and elevation, had a significant effect on soil Ca content at different depths (P < 0.01). In addition, hydraulic attributes, especially flow length and sediment transport index (STI), had a significant effect on the spatial distribution of soil Ca. Spatial variability of soil Ca and its relationships with topographic and hydraulic attributes and soil types indicated that surface soil loss may occur due to water or wind erosion, especially on susceptible soils with high slopes. Therefore, this study suggests that the application of PXRF in assessing soil Ca content can potentially facilitate a new method for soil erosion evaluation in semi-arid lands. The results of this study provide valuable information for site-specific soil conservation and crop management.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)705-714
Number of pages10
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • hydraulic attributes
  • portable X-ray fluorescence spectrometry
  • precision agriculture
  • soil conservation
  • topography


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