Real-time soil health management for sustainable farming practices


Real-time soil health management for sustainable farming practices

soil health management, agricultural practices

Aarthi JanakiRaman, Research Director, Advanced Chemicals and Materials at TechVision, Frost & Sullivan, shines the spotlight on the continuous, real-time management of soil health, which is essential for sustainable agricultural practices

The increase in world population has placed an immense burden on our agricultural systems, as the demand for food production increases exponentially. This underscores the need for proper and effective soil health management to ensure high crop productivity and yield. Ensuring soil health management is a collaborative approach.

There is a need for Integrated Nutrient Management (INM) which involves building and maintaining soil health through careful use of soil inputs, constant monitoring for the optimal presence of not only micro and macronutrients, but also beneficial microbes and organic matter, testing methods for real-time monitoring to modify and recommend soil improvement measures, ensuring the quality control requirements of biological promoters and the soil health, such as organic and organic fertilizers to name a few.

Needless to say, involving farmers is essential and educating them on various soil health and nutrition management methods and principles will not only help improve soil health but will also help them achieve better yields and more profits.

Managing soil health involves accepting that soil is a living ecosystem in itself. It has various physical, chemical and biological properties which are interrelated and must be synergistic in nature to enable the soil to function as a viable and healthy ecosystem with optimum availability and aeration of nutrients, microbes and water. Soil management is also necessary to mitigate the effects of climate change because soil is a key medium that can help carbon sequestration and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Although farmers have an understanding of monitoring and improving soil health parameters, this knowledge is often restrictive and falls under corrective rather than preventive actions. Given the importance of effective soil health management, there is a need for real-time monitoring and solutions to address concerns. This requires the judicious use of technologies, not limited to physical inspection, and assistance with ongoing monitoring that goes beyond physical quality and fertility.

Technologies that facilitate effective soil health management

Technologies play a crucial role in healthy soils. Various technologies beyond the use of fertilizers and growth inputs are deployed for continuous monitoring and implementation of corrective measures.

The field has seen an influx of companies from various technology fields with solutions that can address challenges and help farmers realize benefits. In addition to government agencies, non-profit institutes, and Tier 1 agricultural businesses, developers of digital tracking and monitoring solutions have technologies that not only track water availability, pH, and other parameters , but also provide real-time information on microbial presence, nutrient availability, and even suggest corrective measures are successfully tested and ready for large-scale implementation.

The agricultural industry has also seen the customization of existing technologies for more effective monitoring and management. Improved versions of analytical technologies, such as handheld infrared (IR) spectroscopy, can help analyze real-time soil fertility, organic matter, pH, and heavy metal content to name a few. and to design appropriate intervention measures. Although real-time analysis is not a new concept, portable analysis devices based on near or mid-infrared technologies can provide results that help start immediate response measures that have been customized to track and monitor soil health since their traditional use in F&B. and pharmaceutical industries.

In addition to technologies available to improve soil health management, developments to monitor the sustainability of agricultural operations are also being tested, aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting carbon sequestration.

Using UAVs to provide terrestrial monitoring, real-time automated testing of nutrient content integrated with predictive and prescriptive analytics provides information on nutrient profiling, water infiltration and soil parameters. It can assess the environmental impact of agricultural inputs and practices used to effectively improve soil health. The inclusion of nutrient profiling, soil health tracking and monitoring in ERP solutions for agricultural planning activities can provide farmers/producers with a comprehensive one-stop-shop tool that can track, monitor and implement implement good agricultural practices, help with farm management and also act as a platform between producers and buyers.

Apart from the use of sensors and digital tools, innovations also focus on improving biological inputs that cause minimal adverse environmental effects while improving soil parameters. One of the emerging areas of study involves the use of genetic tools and DNA sequencing techniques to test the soil microbiome and microbial ecosystem. The use of these tools not only helps to use appropriate biological inputs, but also to implement practices that promote the growth of beneficial microbes.

After that ?

In recent years, the focus has been on the generative agricultural ecosystem and the focus on good soil health practices is on the rise as stakeholders realize that improving soil health soils can overcome problems related not only to productivity and yield, but also to nutrient depletion. It can also reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase carbon sequestration, and also help increase resilience to droughts and other calamities.

Implementing integrated soil health management practices not only promotes a healthy soil ecosystem, but also the sustainability of the agriculture industry and creates additional revenue streams for farmers. Despite the continued collaboration of various stakeholders, development and adoption of technologies, the scale of deployment is still in its infancy, making soil regeneration an ongoing challenge.

Stakeholders should increase visibility of the importance of soil health management and agricultural regeneration practices for growers and farmers and provide ongoing support for the implementation of soil health management practices for sustainable and improved agricultural practices.

Research and education in sustainable agriculture

The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program is funded by the National Institute for Food and Agriculture of the United States Department of Agriculture. SARE, on its website, explains that they have funded no less than 7,666 competitively funded projects “to advance agricultural innovation that drives profitability, land, air and water management , and the quality of life of farmers, pastoralists and their communities”.

SARE’s vision is for sustainable, high-quality agriculture that is not only profitable but also protects the country’s water and land, while being a force for good when it comes to farmers and ranchers and their products. quality and operations that support their communities. The organization’s mission is to advance innovations that increase stewardship, profitability and quality of life by funding research and education that innovates. (1)

Finally, to illustrate one way American agriculture is advanced, we learn that sustainable weed management is key to improving crop yields and increasing both ranch and farm profitability, according to SARE’s book. , Managing Weeds on Your Farm: A Guide to Ecological Strategies. “In my opinion, this book contains the best weed management information available today,” comments Klaas Martens of Lakeview Organic Grain of Penn Yan, NY. “Our understanding of weed control continues to grow rapidly, and this book is sure to become an invaluable tool for any farmer looking to sustainably control their weeds.” (2)

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