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Map, Visualize, and Manage Top Soil Data
Unlocking the secrets in your soil means understanding the details of your dirt.
“Soil information is the essential basis for enhancing yield and reducing the use of inputs,” says Matthias Nöster, CEO of Geoprospectors. “However, farmland is currently examined using an error-prone soil probe or devices requiring elaborate installation. They supply only raw data, which has to be analyzed by experts.”
He believes modern sensor technology must be used to accurately account for the different soil parameters like compaction, water saturation, and soil type. Austrian company Geoprospectors has developed Topsoil Mapper to help solve that problem. The system includes sensor components (Topsoil Mapper), software for data collection, analysis, and control (Topsoil Visualizer), and a web-based solution for data management and documentation (Topsoil Data Box).
Installed on the front of the tractor, Topsoil Mapper sits about 30 centimeters (1 foot) above the soil. The sensor is connected to the terminal via a cable connection. It examines and analyzes the subsoil through electromagnetic induction. You can survey the soil during fieldwork at a speed of 15 kilometers an hour (9 mph) or above.
“This geophysical measuring method is noninvasive, which protects the field,” says Nöster. “The conductivity in the ground is used to establish parameters such as compaction and water saturation to a depth of about 1 meter (40 inches). In order to determine the soil type, the system uses libraries prepared by organizations (such as the USDA) that identify soil types found around the world. Other databases can be regularly added, as required.”
Topsoil Visualizer software processes the recorded data on the terminal and provides it to you along with preconfigured soil information on-the-go. If there is no terminal in the tractor, the company will supply one at no additional cost.
“The Topsoil Visualizer software outputs the numbers in real time as a profile,” explains Nöster. “In this way, you can immediately see, for example, the depth of compaction zones.”
The information can then be passed directly to the tillage implement, which automatically sets the tilling depth and allows two steps to be performed at once.
“It not only saves time but also reduces fuel consumption, which, among other factors, depends on the depth to which the soil has to be worked,” he explains.
Topsoil Data Box, Geoprospectors’s web portal, is used to permanently document and manage the information that is recorded on a regular basis.
“The device is a GIS-based web application with an intuitive and legible soil map made available to you as an in-depth analysis tool,” says Nöster.
The Data Box also lets you link topsoil data to a comprehensive farm management information system. Once data is acquired, you can visualize it and build your own application maps.
Topsoil Mapper retails for around $27,000. Training, initial installation, activation of Topsoil Data Box, and soil maps are an additional $1,600 (approximate). Optional sensor maintenance is also available at about $800 per year.
During a trade mission last spring, the Iowa Economic Development Authority visited Geoprospectors. That connection led to a field demonstration at Iowa State University last summer.
“A tractor-mounted sensor creates the opportunity to be collecting spatially detailed information about the soil as you drive through the field for other tasks,” says Bradley Miller, assistant professor in soil informatics, Iowa State University.
“By making data collection more convenient, information about soil variation within a field becomes more readily available. Having that data then aides in identifying subfield areas benefiting from unique management and in determining what that customized management should be,” he says.
Geoprospectors is extensively testing the technology in Oklahoma and has established an office in Denver, Colorado.
For more information, visit geoprospectors.com.