Direct observation of sediment and carbon connectivity: evaluating degradation pathways, conservation implementation and true cost accounting

Soil erosion is the first order measure of agricultural soil sustainability. Clear economic incentives and accounting of public and private true cost are needed to identify pathways from conventional to transformational, biologically intensive management. Erosion occurs disproportionately from critical source areas, but the spatial distribution and temporal variability in erosion mechanisms are not well characterized. Conservation planning, agricultural management, and physical soil dynamics span scales from millimeters to kilometers. Our limited ability to observe diffuse erosion constrains the application of focused conservation implementation. We will utilize cutting edge Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) imaging and photogrammetry to generate ultra-high resolution maps of diffuse erosion on the Palouse. Visible and near infrared sensors will measure soil organic carbon and erosion. We hypothesize that the colocation of spatial erosion patterns and on-farm yield and soil data will allow processed explanations of spatially explicit true cost accounting. We will build on past BioAG UAV and remote sensing grants, leverage Cook Agronomy Farm (CAF) Long Term Agronomic Research (LTAR) on soil metrics, yield, and econometrics, and collaborate with the Palouse Conservation District (PCD) to identify conservation projects based on critical source areas. Through the RCPP, we will achieve dissemination of this BioAG grant’s results and adoption of this methodology to complement on farm experimentation with sustainable agricultural intensification.

Grant Information

  • Project ID: 194
  • Project Status: Complete


  • Principal Investigator(s): Boll, J.
  • Investigator(s): Fowler, A.
  • Student(s): Boylan, R., Brooks, E.
  • Grant Amount: $37,188
  • 2020 Progress Report (PDF)