Farms rely on soil maps to ascertain the condition of their fields, and determine what areas need additional irrigation and fertilizer. Conventional soil mapping techniques involve collecting and testing individual soil core samples, which can be costly and time consuming. Recently, however, an assistant professor in the Department of Geology at the University at Buffalo has developed a new soil mapping method that is not only much faster, but also more detailed.
The system developed by Professor Erasmus Oware uses an electronic wave emitter to map fields by analyzing soil conductivity. The wave emitter is dragged behind an ATV which travels back and forth across a field. As the wave emitter passes over the field, it gathers thousands of data points that track the soil conductivity along the way. By gathering all these data points, this system is able to generate high-resolution soil maps that document information about virtually every inch of a field. Once the test is complete, Oware and his team conduct a traditional analysis to determine the water-holding capacity of the different soil types.
“We will tell the farmer, ‘this part of the field holds water for a longer time, so you can irrigate it less frequently. The other area does not hold water, so it needs to be watered less, but more frequently,’” explains Oware in an interview with UBNow.
Oware’s technique has been well-received by farmers in his area, and 14 farms have already agreed to participate in his ongoing study. By creating these highly-detailed soil maps, Oware and his team hope to help farms use their water and energy resources more efficiently, thereby making their operations more cost effective and environmentally sustainable. Oware’s soil mapping method is so fast and efficient that he was recently able to generate a map of a seven-acre field with more than 50,000 data points in just three hours.