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New Technologies for Rapid and Accurate Soil Testing: A Review Skip to main content

New Technologies for Rapid and Accurate Soil Testing: A Review

Soil testing is an important step for increasing agricultural production and raising farm income. However, traditional soil testing methods are based on chemical methods that are time consuming, tedious, and require elaborate sample preparation steps. Therefore, there is a need for new technologies that can provide rapid and accurate soil testing results.
Some of the new technologies that can be used for soil testing are:

Machine learning methods:
 These methods use algorithms to classify soil types based on various parameters such as pH, organic matter, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, etc. These parameters are important for determining the fertility and nutrient status of the soil and the suitability of the soil for different crops. For example, a study by ¹ used weighted k-Nearest Neighbor (k-NN), Bagged Trees, and Gaussian kernel based Support Vector Machines (SVM) for soil classification and crop suggestion. The results showed that the SVM based method performed better than many existing methods and was able to suggest suitable crops for different soil types based on their nutrient requirements and yield potential.
Soil sensors: 
These are devices that can measure various soil properties such as temperature, moisture, conductivity, water potential, oxygen levels, etc. using electrodes, probes, or infrared technology. These properties are important for monitoring the soil health and the availability of nutrients and water to the crops. These sensors can be portable or installed in the field and can transmit data wirelessly to a central point or the cloud for analysis and visualization. For example, a book chapter by ² discussed the advancement in soil testing with new age sensors such as portable X-ray fluorescence spectrometry (PXRF) and diffuse reflectance spectroscopy (DRS) in the Indian perspective. These sensors can help develop soil spectral libraries that can link spectral signatures of specific soil types to a range of soil properties. With the development of empirical models for different nutrients of benchmark soils, spectral libraries can help rapid analysis of thousands of samples in a short time.
Vis-NIR spectroscopy: 
This is a technology that works by sending wavelengths of energy at a sample and measuring what is absorbed or reflected. This can provide information about the chemical composition and physical structure of the sample. This technology can be used to measure various nutrients and contaminants in the soil without destroying the sample or requiring extensive sample preparation. For example, a study by (sciencedirect.com) used Vis-NIR spectroscopy to measure the oil content in soil after oil spills. The results showed that this technology can help speed up soil recovery by providing faster and cheaper measurements than conventional methods.

These new technologies can help for agriculture by providing timely and accurate soil testing results that can help farmers and producers to optimize their inputs, improve their crop yield and quality, and reduce their environmental impact. 

Some of the benefits of soil testing are:
- It determines the level of nutrients in the soil and helps in selecting the right fertilizer and its quantity for optimum fertigation.
- It helps farmers in making smart data driven decisions based on the soil condition and crop requirement.
- It helps in getting higher yield of crops by avoiding nutrient deficiencies or excesses that can affect plant growth and development.
- It helps in optimizing the fertilizer expenditure by avoiding wastage or overuse of fertilizers that can harm the soil health and the environment.
- It improves soil health by maintaining a balanced pH level, enhancing organic matter content, and reducing salinity or alkalinity problems.
- It predicts the probability of obtaining a profitable response to fertilizers by considering crop needs, soil supply, fertilizer use efficiency, and contribution from manures.

Source:
(1) Soil Testing and its Benefits | Soil Testing - Harvesto Group. https://www.harvestogroup.com/post/soil-testing-and-its-benefits.
(2) Soil Testing: Its importance and benefits - Harvesto Group. https://www.harvestogroup.com/post/soil-testing-importance-and-benefits.
(3) Soil testing: Why it is important - Farm management. https://www.farmmanagement.pro/soil-testing-why-it-is-important/.

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