Emerging Tools For Evaluating Soils Could Change How You Farm

Improved electromagnetic sensors and on-the-go software yield 3-D maps of soil profiles that may help no-tillers fine-tune field management decisions.

We've been using precision technologies, such as yield monitors and variable-rate application, for more than a decade to help us fine-tune management practices and improve our production methods and profitability.

Grid sampling has been the basic system used to help establish site-specific soil characteristics in our fields. Linked with yield maps, this soil information guides us on developing variable-rate prescriptions.

To take make our next leap in managing fields with precision technology, we need even more detailed information about the soils in site-specific field locations. Improving our knowledge about how soil varies vertically, as well as horizontally, makes precision ag an even more valuable tool to improve nutrient management and farm profitability.

Core Changes. In the past, site-specific grid sampling and electromagnetic technology yielded a two-dimensional view of soil variability.

But recent advances in the use of electromagnetic technologies linked with on-the-fly software, has given us the ability to surf the field with the electromagnetic sensors — combined with intensive topographical measurements — to develop three-dimensional maps of soil profiles.

If this technology comes to full adoption, farmers would be able develop a set of sampling points throughout the field to do detailed soil coring and sampling and derive soil chemical and physical properties.

Using these cores in combination with the surfing information, three-dimensional maps could be developed for the soil’s chemical and physical properties.

The software also uses the topographical information, along with the coring information, to accurately define our soil layers and the depth and thickness of these…

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Leverich_jim

Jim Leverich

Jim Leverich no-tills near Sparta, Wis., and serves as an onfarm research coordinator for the University of Wisconsin.

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