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Soil mapping as a tool for agricultural management

Soil mapping as a tool for agricultural management
7 mins read |

Soil mapping is a critical tool for understanding the ground beneath our feet. It provides essential information for land use planning, soil conservation, and agricultural management. It helps us understand the physical, chemical, and biological properties of soil and enables us to make informed decisions about land use and management.

Current food production techniques are far from sustainable. Intensive farming techniques and widespread chemical usage are draining our soil and poisoning our water. Furthermore, agriculture is responsible for a large portion of our water use; the World Bank estimates that agricultural use accounts for 70% of all freshwater usage globally.

Reports by the World Data Lab’s Water Scarcity Clock, indicate that around 2.3 billion people worldwide face water scarcity, and the trend is accelerating. To make matters worse, the global warming that is causing drought in many countries has increased the demand for water, particularly in Europe, which saw exceptional heat waves in the past year.

Sustainable development goals necessitate agriculture that is environmentally friendly while producing the best feasible yields. For encouraging sustainable agriculture with accurate inputs in amount, place, and time, detailed information on the soil profile and its geographical distribution is required. Accurate and up-to-date information on soil composition, in particular, enable better and more effective fertility management, boosting crop productivity and sustainability.

What is soil mapping?

Soil mapping is a process that involves the systematic observation and recording of soil types and their distribution within a particular area. It has several important applications. It helps farmers to make informed decisions about crop selection, fertilization, and irrigation.

It also assists land managers in developing strategies for soil conservation and restoration. Soil maps are also used by engineers and construction professionals to design buildings, roads, and other infrastructure projects that are compatible with local soil conditions.

Soils provide critical ecosystem services such as water filtering, flood control, plant growth medium, and habitat for soil biota. Agriculture covers around 38 percent of the Earth’s ice-free area, with croplands accounting for approximately 12 percent and pastures accounting for approximately 26 percent.

Soil information is thus essential for long-term soil management. The soil profile and its spatial distribution are two critical components for encouraging sustainable agriculture, which requires precise inputs in amount, space, and time.

The development of a numerical or statistical model of the link between environmental variables and soil qualities, which is then applied to a geographic data source to build a predictive map, is what digital soil maps (DSM) is all about.

Geocomputational technologies developed during the last couple of decades have enabled DSM. GeoPard technologies, for example, employ modern geographic information science, digital terrain modeling, remote sensing, and fuzzy logic to create extremely precise 3D soil survey maps.

However, one of the most significant challenges of soil mapping is the variability of soil types within a given area. Soil properties can vary greatly over short distances due to differences in topography, vegetation cover, and land use history. To overcome this challenge, soil scientists use statistical techniques to interpolate between sampling points and create a continuous map of soil types.

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Soil mapping as a tool for agricultural management

GeoPard 3D soil maps can help agricultural businesses benefit from simplified and digitized soil management. They can learn about the soil characteristics beneath the ground’s surface over a vast area rather than only at certain locations.

This understanding enables farmers to implement the appropriate treatment methods. It can assist them in increasing fertility and consequently yields while minimizing water and fertilizer consumption.

How do the 3D soil maps help farmers and agricultural companies?

It has become common practice in so-called precision farming, which employs cutting-edge technology to acquire the most exact information about the condition of the soil, the weather, and the crops. Farmers benefit from this in the following ways:

  • Composition of the soil. It is critical to understand which soil elements exist in order to determine which crops or varieties are best suited to each land parcel.
  • CheckHumidity. It is critical to understand the humidity of each crop area. This allows for better irrigation management. This check is usually done using soil temperature maps.
  • Soil texture. Knowing the texture of the soil allows farmers to determine which fertilizers they can apply at any given time and location.
  • Ph and conductivity. It is critical to determine soil variables such as ph and conductivity in order to better select fertilizers and other nutrients.
  • Fertility. Knowing what fertility may be expected from a land plot is essential for selecting the best periods to cultivate crops.

Impact of soil mapping on farming productivity

To begin with, as previously mentioned, farmers learn about soil fertility and production by visualizing the elevation, slope nutrients availability, organic matter content, and soil PH of their land.

Not just farmers, but policymakers, researchers, and technicians would benefit directly from these maps, as policymakers may implement appropriate policies depending on soil quality for specific locations, and technicians can apply effective technologies.

The government can utilize the maps to make more efficient management decisions on fertilizer import, distribution, and recommendation, including blended fertilizers. It aids in crop selection and the development of extension programs aimed at enhancing soil health and increasing agricultural yield while also protecting soil from deterioration.

Impact of soil mapping on farming productivity

Agriculture and other industries are expanding their demand for soil information. For example, horticultural development officials may need to determine how much land under their control is suitable for fruit crops and where it is located, whether it is spread or clustered, and so on.

The business sector can use the obtained soil information to create dynamic and user-friendly mobile apps that deliver soil qualities, fertilizer-related information, and other information to formers as part of commercial Agri-advisory extension services.

These soil maps will not only help to enhance crop yields, but also the nutritional value of these crops, which will help to tackle public health issues such as nutritional deficiencies in the American population.

How to collect data using soil maps

Several strategies can be employed to obtain several levels of information about the soil. Traditionally, works were created with open earth pits, but today we have access to far more sophisticated instruments.

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How to collect data using soil maps

These are the most important:

  • Electrical and electromagnetic sensors. One of the most common methods of mapping soil is to assess its electrical and electromagnetic properties. These values will help us understand its composition as well as a variety of other helpful information. The equipment that creates these maps used to be terrestrial, such as a tractor outfitted with a gadget capable of measuring these electrical values.
  • Optical sensors. In this situation, equipment is used that can detect color changes in soils, allowing for the interpretation of their features based on this information. Drones are increasingly being used in these treatments. They can take extremely accurate photographs of the earth from appropriate heights.
  • Mechanical sensors. A common way of determining the composition of a land plot is to use equipment that, when clamped to the soil, allows you to discover which types of materials make it up and in what densities.
  • Electrochemical sensors. These instruments can detect the presence of potassium, nitrates, and other elements, as well as their electrical properties.

The increase in farming productivity thanks to soil mapping

Climate, soil qualities, and the usage of production elements all influence agricultural productivity and yield quantity. Fertilizers, irrigation, seeds, insecticides, and farmers’ abilities all have an impact on farm output.

Precision agriculture is a new farming management strategy in which farmers collect and analyze data to optimize inputs and practices for the best results.

This information is then used to make decisions about which crops to sow and when and where to apply fertilizer, agrochemicals, or water. As a result, farmers can optimize their input use, making the most of their limited resources.

Our 3D soil maps could be useful to everyone who works in agriculture. However, the end consumers are the farmers themselves, who will save time and money while meeting increasingly stringent environmental regulations.

Agricultural businesses profit as well, as they can cut their time spent on soil care by more than 80%. Soil management is currently done primarily by hand, which takes a long time.

Using GeoPard technologies, a number of job tasks can be handled remotely, from a distance, or they can be automated. The user is not required to travel to the field in order to collect soil samples and send them to the laboratory. The advance planning steps are likewise avoided, as are the accompanying administrative expenditures.

This allows farmers to reduce the number of manual steps in the process and thus the time required to complete them. Our method is distinct in several ways: We are not attempting to improve current processes and procedures. Instead, we intend to apply novel ways to completely rethink an antiquated system.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How will a contour map be useful for a farmer?

A contour map is a valuable tool for farmers as it visually represents the shape and elevation of the land. By using contour lines that connect points of equal elevation, farmers can identify the slope and drainage patterns of their fields.

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This information helps in planning and implementing effective soil and water management practices, such as contour plowing, terracing, and installing drainage systems.

Contour maps also aid in preventing soil erosion, optimizing irrigation, and maximizing crop productivity by understanding the topographic features of the land.

2. Which of the following is not a common reason why soil maps are used?

They are commonly used for various purposes, including agricultural planning, land management, and environmental assessments. However, they are not typically used to determine the weather conditions in a specific area.

Instead, they provide valuable information about soil types, fertility levels, drainage characteristics, and nutrient distribution, enabling farmers to make informed decisions.

By understanding the spatial variability of soil properties, stakeholders can optimize land use and minimize environmental impacts.

3. What is soil productivity?

Soil productivity refers to the capacity of soil to support plant growth and provide essential nutrients for healthy crops. It is a measure of the soil’s ability to sustain high yields and maintain the desired level of agricultural production over time. 

4. Who uses soil maps?

They are used by a variety of individuals and organizations involved in agriculture, land management, and environmental planning. Farmers and agronomists use them to make informed decisions about crop selection, fertilization, and irrigation.

Land planners and developers utilize them to determine the suitability of land for various purposes, such as building infrastructure or conserving natural areas. Environmental scientists and researchers rely on them to study soil characteristics and their impact on ecosystems.

Additionally, government agencies and policymakers utilize maps for land-use planning and conservation efforts.

5. Which slope element is suitable for farming?

Gentle slopes are generally considered suitable for farming due to their favorable characteristics. These slopes provide adequate drainage, minimize erosion risks, and allow for effective water infiltration.

They also facilitate machinery operations and reduce the potential for soil compaction. Gentle slopes offer a balance between sufficient water retention and proper water drainage, making them conducive for various agricultural practices and crop growth.

6. What is soil management?

Soil management refers to the practices and techniques used to maintain and improve the quality and productivity of soil for agricultural purposes.

It involves strategies such as soil testing, nutrient management, erosion control, irrigation management, and crop rotation. Soil management aims to optimize soil health, fertility, structure, and moisture content to support sustainable and productive agriculture.

By implementing proper soil management practices, farmers can enhance crop growth, minimize soil degradation, and protect the long-term productivity of their land.

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