The Potential for Using Smartphones for Soil Nutrient Testing
Agriculture has changed a lot in the past hundred years. New technology like electric equipment and synthetic fertilizers have empowered farmers to grow large amounts of food more successfully and predictably than ever before. However, many modern farming practices aren’t effective long term. Tilling and chemical sprays wear down soil health and affect future crops.
Healthy soil functions as a living organism and is incredibly complex. Details like soil pH, moisture content and mycorrhizae levels affect how plants grow. Many farmers use soil tests to help them understand what’s going on underground and supplement their crops. Here are some potential benefits of using smartphones for soil nutrient testing.
Healthy Soil Is Complex
Healthy soil contains organic matter and natural minerals like calcium, phosphorus and magnesium. It’s also home to billions of microorganisms, including beneficial bacteria and fungi. These microorganisms form symbiotic relationships with plant roots so each living thing gets the nutrients it needs to thrive.
Healthy soil absorbs rainwater and filters it into underground aquifers, protecting the structure and reducing the need for watering. Worms and plant roots create tunnels that bring oxygen into the ground. This oxygen makes important nutrients and water more accessible to plant roots.
Investing in healthy soil takes time, but it’s well worth the effort. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides kill the natural microorganisms that support crops from the ground up. Soil cultivated with organic materials works naturally to protect plants from disease. Investing in organic, chemical-free soil will make your farm stronger and more productive every year.
Types of Soil Tests
It’s vital to know more about your soil. Dirt can come in six different consistencies: loamy, sandy, peaty, silty, chalky and clay. Each of these types has a different texture and ability to hold moisture. The number of nutrients and microorganisms in your soil will depend on many factors, including its variety and how it’s been managed before.
Farmers can gauge their soil type with a few at-home tests. A simple pH kit will determine the acidity level. Most crops thrive in slightly acidic soil, or 6.5-7 on the pH scale. You can easily adjust pH by adding agricultural lime or compost to raise or lower your soil’s acidity. It’s also helpful to test for key nutrients like nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus and magnesium.
Many farmers send soil samples away to be lab-tested. This process is time-consuming and more expensive than at-home tests, but it gives them more detailed information. Once they know what’s going on in their soil, they can form a plan to supplement it and improve crop production. If gathering soil samples is too much trouble, you can hire a company to take care of the whole process.
Smartphones and Soil Tests
As smartphones have become more common, entrepreneurs in the agricultural industry have started to experiment and use them for soil testing. Instead of sending your soil to a lab, you can bring the lab into your field through your phone. Many companies have paired testing equipment with smartphone apps that track test results on your farm.
Companies like AgroCares, 360 Soilscan and ChrysaLabs use scanning technology to offer farmers personalized information about their soil. This makes soil testing faster and more convenient. It also allows you to test various areas of your land to understand differences in soil composition. Once data is gathered, it’s mapped and explained on an online platform you can view over your smartphone.
Many farmers in developing countries don’t have access to soil testing labs. However, an increasingly large number of them do have smartphones. Smartphone apps can provide a wealth of information for these farmers. Experiments with cellphone tech show that readings are accurate enough to make a real difference.
Innovation for Healthy Soil
Soil health is one of the most essential, controllable factors for abundant crop production over a farmer’s career. If your soil is healthy, your plants will be large, disease-resistant, and resilient during times of drought or heavy rain. To cultivate healthy soil, you first need to invest in testing.
Many agro-tech companies are working to make soil tests easier and more accurate. By combining scanning tech with a smartphone app, farmers can access important information on-site rather than collecting and sending samples to a lab. Using smartphones for soil testing could be a significant boon to farmers in developing countries without access to labs.
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