Artificial neural network model as a data analysis tool in precision farming

Ayse Irmak, James W. Jones, William D. Batchelor, Suat Irmak, Kenneth J. Boote, Joel O. Paz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Spatial variation in landscape and soil properties combined with temporal variations in weather can result in yield patterns that change annually within a field. The complexity of interactions between a number of yield-limiting factors makes it difficult to accurately attribute yield losses to conditions that occur within a field. In this research, a back-propagation neural network (BPNN) model was developed to predict the spatial distribution of soybean yields and to understand the causes of yield variability. First, we developed a BPNN model by relating soybean yield to topography, soil, weather, and site factors and evaluated model predictions for the same field for independent years. We also explored the potential use of BPNN for predicting yields in independent fields. Finally, we evaluated the ability of the BPNN to attribute yield losses due to soybean cyst nematodes (SCN), soil pH, and weeds. A total of 14 input datasets with combinations of four controlling factors (topographic, soil fertility, weather, and site) were used. For each objective, data from fields in Iowa were used for training the BPNN, while a portion of the data was withheld to verify the accuracy of yield predictions. All BPNN models had fully connected feed-forward architecture with a back-propagation weight adjustment algorithm. When tested for a particular field, the BPNN captured the major patterns of yield variability in independent years; the root mean square error of prediction (RMSEP) was 14.2% of actual yield. When the BPNN was trained with inputs from five fields, the RMSEP at test sites was 11.2% of actual yield. When the BPNN was used to attribute yield losses to soil pH, SCN, and weed populations, standard errors were 92, 262, and 171 kg ha -1, respectively. The technique showed that the BPNN could predict spatial yield variability with an RMSEP of about 14%.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2027-2037
Number of pages11
JournalTransactions of the ASABE
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Forestry
  • Food Science
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Soil Science


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