Digital data improves soil management

Applied Tech Review | Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Digital data can be portrayed in a way which makes sense to farmers and landowners in order to prevent soil erosion. 

FREMONT, CA: When we think about limited resources in agriculture, water is normally the first that springs to mind. The bad news is that just like water; soil is a finite resource that is fast deteriorating as a result of human activity. The good news: research is providing farmers, landowners and policymakers with new tools to turn the tide.

Agriculture, like many other industries, has been transformed by digitalization. For years, technical advancements have aided farmers in operating more efficiently and responsibly. Now, data-driven insights can help them improve soil health, which is the most important aspect of successful agriculture. 

Countries all across the world have been gathering data on their soils and devising farming techniques for years. Conservation agriculture, for example, is a farming technique that involves minimal soil disturbance (i.e., no ploughing) and supports natural biological processes below ground. There is a plethora of study on conservation agriculture in Austria. As a result, the soil is healthier and crop production is more efficient. Long-term studies are also underway in Murcia, Spain, where researchers are looking into the impacts of deficit irrigation in vines as a means to make the most of a restricted water resource.

The information gained from these local experiments can help in the worldwide effort to improve our soils by revealing the farming practices that work – or don't work – in various geographic and climatic circumstances. However, understanding this data could be hard for an average farmer. Data must be made available in a way farmers can understand. 

Introducing the SQAPP, a farmer-focused app created by Dr. Fleskens and his colleagues at the iSQAPERproject. Dr. Fleskens explained, "It brings together digital soil knowledge in a convenient location and format for end users to learn more about soils and solutions for sustainable soil management."

Farmers only need to enter the location of the land they want to know the soil quality of in order to use the app. The software then lists the features of the soil, such as salinity, organic matter content, and any dangers to the land, and suggests ways to improve soil quality, such as new farming methods and irrigation techniques. This makes the data easy to use and understand. 

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