Wetenschap - 23 november 1995

Soil science has to move with the times

Soil science has to move with the times

The rapid technological developments within the field of precision farming require a different approach from soil scientists according to Professor Bouma of the Department of Soil Science and Geology. Precision farming is a concept which is originally based on the variation in soil quality in a specific field. Certain parts of a field may need more or a different mix of fertilizer. If these changes in soil quality are mapped, the data can be stored in a tractor's board computer. The tractor is equipped with a device that informs the computer of the tractor's exact location by means of satellite connection. As it crosses the field the application rate and mix are changed automatically. The data can be extended to include site specific yield data, thus making it also possible to fine-tune soil tillage, pesticide application and sowing.

It was in reaction to these commercialized technological innovations that Bouma addressed the implications for soil science during a staff colloquium last Thursday, November 16th. In his presentation Bouma explained that the basis upon which soil maps are drawn will have to change. Traditional soil maps were soil data driven, and needed interpretation by experts. However, soils which are identical from a pedological view may be quite different from a functional point of view. In order to keep up with the new developments, more detailed application driven maps are needed. Besides spatial variety, variety in time also needs to be taken into account. Soils change as a function of the management they receive. The predictability of the weather is also an important factor in fine-tuning agricultural practice. Bouma suggests that if meteorological data can be incorporated, this might eventually lead to the establishment of a comprehensive data base. Bouma has his doubts about
the viability of such a data base, but believes that it is worth trying.

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