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Workflow for using unmanned aircraft systems and traditional geospatial data to delineate agricultural drainage tiles at edge-of-field sites

June 3, 2021

Managing nutrient and sediment runoff from fields that drain to the Great Lakes is key to mitigating harmful algal blooms. Implementation of best management practices on agricultural land is considered a critical step to improving water quality in these streams, however the effect of these best management practices is difficult to quantify. The purpose of this study was to use a suite of high-resolution imagery acquired with unmanned aircraft systems (including a combination of visible, multispectral, and thermal cameras) to better characterize edge-of-field (EOF) sites in Michigan and Wisconsin that are monitored in cooperation with the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. This high-resolution imagery (2.5–12-centimeter ground resolution) was used to delineate artificial subsurface drainage (tile-drain) networks and surface water flow paths that indicate contributing areas (that is, all area that drains to a monitored point) at these EOF sites, providing better characterization of each study site. Contributing areas for these sites ranged from 2.86 to 5.07 hectares and, among the sites, tile drains were identified as those that followed soil properties and those that were more densely patterned networks. These surveys also indicated that the contributing area monitored at the EOF sites may cross field boundaries and is not always coincident with the area underlain by subsurface drainage.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2021
Title Workflow for using unmanned aircraft systems and traditional geospatial data to delineate agricultural drainage tiles at edge-of-field sites
DOI 10.3133/sir20215013
Authors J. Jeremy Webber, Tanja N. Williamson
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2021-5013
Index ID sir20215013
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Water Science Center

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