SoilOptix® Blog

How Can Digital Soil Mapping in the USA Be Rewarding for Framers? 

In agriculture, the foundation of crop health and productivity lies beneath our feet—in the soil. This dynamic, living ecosystem plays a pivotal role in successful farming. Understanding soil means leveraging its potential to improve agricultural outcomes. Soil mapping in the USA makes this possible. The soil’s balance of nutrients, moisture, and organic matter profoundly impacts crop yields, farm profitability, and ecological sustainability. By using soil mapping, we can contribute to a healthier planet, ensuring that our farming practices are sustainable and environmentally responsible.

The process of soil surveying and mapping involves collecting data from fieldwork and laboratory analysis. This information is then combined with GIS vector data, which contains the geometry of the soil mapping unit polygons. Previously, this data was produced in analogical format, but now, examples of soil databases and vector data themes can be found online through various resources across Canada, the USA and internationally. Soil maps can be very easily accessed through services like web soil survey programs at the national or regional level. It’s important to note that the information content of the soil map, which is highly dependent on the scale, should be the starting point for any analysis.

Typical Uses of Soil Maps:

Soil maps are used for various purposes, including agricultural planning, land management, and for environmental assessments. However, they are not generally used to determine the weather conditions in a particular area.

Instead, they provide valuable information about the soil types, fertility levels, drainage characteristics, and the nutrient distribution, enabling farmers to make well-informed decisions. By understanding the spatial variability of the soil properties, the stakeholders can optimize land use and minimize environmental impacts.

Digital Soil Mapping (DSM):

Digital Soil Mapping is a technique that combines expert opinion with statistical modelling and geospatial layers with field data. Soil scientists determine target classes by assessing the soil-landscape relationship, and models are then used to quantitatively link these classes to remotely sensed features such as wetness and elevation. We can obtain data-driven, wall-to-wall soil class maps with a high level of accuracy and uncertainty by training models using observational data attributed to remotely sensed predictors. With DSM, we can also assess more fine-scale soil transitions than traditional soil mapping methods and more closely link soil classifications to landscape characteristics.

Digital methods have revolutionized soil mapping, offering greater consistency and efficiency in synthesizing data. The speed at which we can analyze large amounts of data has increased significantly, allowing us to leverage the wealth of data available through remote sensing and other technologies. As we embrace digital soil mapping, it’s important to understand the reasons behind traditional soil mapping methods and the unique benefits that digital techniques offer.

soil mapping USA

Source: Freepik

What Information Can be Received Using DSM?

Precipitation Levels:

It is essential to know the humidity of every area of the crops. This way, irrigation can be managed better.

Soil Composition:

Identifying which elements the soil consists of is essential to knowing which crops and varieties better suit every land plot.

PH and Conductivity:

Determining values like the pH or the soil’s conductivity is fundamental to choosing the fertilizers and other nutrients better.

Soil Fertility:

Knowing what fertility can be expected from a plot of land is necessary to choose the cultivation times correctly.

Soil Texture:

The texture of the soil will allow us to know which fertilizers we can use at every moment and in every place.

How Is DSM or Digital Soil Mapping Carried Out?

Electrical and electromagnetic sensors: One of the most frequent ways of soil mapping is to measure its electrical and electromagnetic values. These values allow us to understand the soil composition and other valuable information. The machines that make this sort of map could be terrestrial, like a tractor with a device capable of measuring these electrical values.

Optical Sensors:

These machines can detect the differences in soil colour, allowing the interpretation of their characteristics. Drones have been increasingly included in these procedures as they can take accurate pictures of the soil from suitable heights.

Mechanical Sensors:

A systematic method of determining the composition of a plot of land is using tools that determine which elements form it and at which densities when clamped to the soil.

Electrochemical Sensors:

These devices can determine the presence of potassium, nitrates, and other elements and their electrical characterization.

Gamma Radiation Sensors:

These devices measure the natural gamma radiation signature that is being emitted as the soil is decaying, which closely correlates to the soil’s texture. Coupled with soil sample analysis, this solution provides stable and accurate high resolution soil information for optimizing in-field management decisions.

In Conclusion:

With the data provided by digital soil mapping, farmers are empowered to make better decisions when applying different techniques that the crops might require. This knowledge of the land plot’s condition allows them to identify which crops will thrive and which ones may struggle, enabling them to schedule phytosanitary treatments and apply them at the right time with the correct dose. Soil mapping is, therefore, an essential tool in present agriculture, offering the necessary information to reduce the margins of error in the farming business.

Ready to experience the benefits of advanced soil mapping? Discover how it can lead to more productive, sustainable farming and contribute to a healthier planet with our experts at SoilOptix®. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to improve your agricultural outcomes. Get in touch now!