Soil map can be replicated for agricultural plots based on soil tests
Researchers at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kharagpur, have come up with soil maps that can be accessed using differential global positioning system (GPS) for a variable rate of fertilisation application in farmlands.
The novel technology is aimed towards efficient use of nitrogen, phosphorous and potash for automated soil nutrition management by bypassing both manual labour-based operations or sensor-based fertilization technologies which are still under development.
Spatial variations in soil type and mineral content in large agricultural tracts are common and lead to a dynamic need for resources such as fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides and even water. Farmers have been collecting information on these variations through soil tests by local bodies or installing sensors to collect the data in real-time. However, the proximity of the applicator vehicle to the sensor hinders real-time sensor-based data processing and fertiliser application.
IIT Kharagpur director V.K. Tewari, along with his former research scholar Sneha Jha of the agricultural and food engineering department, explored an alternate method of creating a soil nutrition map that can be accessed in real-time through differential GPS for variable rate application of NPK.
“We divided one hectare of land into 36 grids with the nutritional requirement of each grid fed in the soil map. The fertiliser applicator vehicle, fitted with a DGPS module and GUI-enabled microprocessor cum microcontroller, can access this map and compute in real-time the variable rates in the fertiliser application function,” Tewari said.
The soil map can be replicated for agricultural plots based on soil tests that can be performed at district administration levels or by private labs. This data when fed into the DGPS module will be accessible to farms using the GUI installed-applicator.
“The system can detect field grids in real-time with a length-wise accuracy of 16cm towards the east and breadth-wise accuracy of 20cm towards the north. It can manage the automated application from 5 to 400kg per hectare. Application of desired amount of NPK precisely at a specific location will enhance crop production and avoid environmental degradation,” Tewari said. “This technology would be able to reduce 30% of fertilisers used in manual methods, ensuring substantial savings in resource applications.”
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