Farmers can now use a Soil Quality App (SQAPP) to test and improve the soil quality on their land. The app was developed in an EU project led by WUR’s Soil Physics and Land Management chair group and the international soil institute Isric.
With the Soil Quality App farmers can get a thorough assessment of the soil quality at any location they choose. (c) Shutterstock
Dutch farmers already receive advice on soil fertility from the soil analysis institute Eurofins, says Violette Geissen, professor of Soil Physics and Land Management. But this advice usually focuses on the short-term fertilization of crops. The new app addresses soil quality in the long term, such as the amount of organic matter and the soil life. The app can be an aid to achieving circular agriculture, which is one of the current Dutch cabinet’s goals.
The researchers integrated soil maps with climate maps on a global scale so as to define zones with comparable environmental conditions. They also combined soil maps with land use maps, to be able to differentiate between grasslands and arable farming. They added databases about organic matter, quantities of nutrients, acidity levels and soil texture. Threats such as salinization, acidification and erosion were included as well. The result is an interactive soil quality assessment, says Geissen.
Farmers can download the SQAPP on their smartphone or tablet and use GPS to obtain a soil quality assessment for any location they wish. ‘The app is interactive and is still in the testing phase,’ says Geissen. ‘If the data on the map are incorrect, the farmer can correct the data and send them to us, so we can improve the app.’
The app makes recommendations based on the information entered. A healthy soil is coloured green, poor soils are shown in red. Farmers can also see by what percentage they could improve their soil and what it would take to do so. Possible interventions would be fertilizing with compost or a new crop rotation, says Geissen.