SoilOptix® Blog

Is Soil Mapping a Viable Tool for Agriculture Management?

The mapping of the soil layer is essential for the proper implementation of sustainable land use management. In recent decades, soil mapping methods and data availability have increased exponentially, improving the maps’ quality. Despite these advances, local knowledge is an excellent source of information, refined for centuries and useful for soil mapping and implementing sustainable land management.

Soil mapping helps people understand how to best use the land. For example, you can use soil maps to decide the best building location or to choose what to grow in certain areas. If you’re curious about what the appropriate native vegetation should be on a specific soil type, you can get insight into that. If you want to use the created map for range-land management, you can figure out what vegetation the land should produce if it’s healthy.

Understanding Soil Mapping

Mapping changes in the soil properties across a specific production area can assist with making crucial agronomic management decisions.

Soil sensing technologies evaluate how soil characteristics vary across a farm. Soil mapping can thus be used to:

• create management zones,

• plan specific soil sampling points in the field,

• create variable rate prescription maps for fertilizer or soil amendments,

• develop irrigation prescription maps,

• assist in infrastructure planning, e.g. field or irrigation layout,

• assist with drainage planning 

Soil mapping allows us to know much better the composition, features and specificity of the agricultural land plot we are cultivating. It deals with creating a cartography that identifies every plot founded on parameters which have to do with the profitability of the farming activity.

Important role of soil mapping

Soil is one of the crucial aspects of any agricultural production system, with diverse soil components capable of having huge effects on crop or amount of pasture yield and quality, as well as environmental sustainability. For centuries farmers have been adapting their management strategies depending on observed physical and visual properties of soils, with the latest technological advances assisting in this practice. Components of the soil of major interest in agriculture include; nutrient levels which can significantly affect plant growth, physiochemical properties such as pH, texture (clay, silt and sand) and water contents. Traditional soil sampling and mapping were performed using a “W” shape field sampling pattern before grid sampling became common; this was improved through the innovation of global positioning system (GPS) technologies to allow accurate sampling localisations. However, soil sampling is complex due to the vast complexity and variability across large and small geographic distances. In addition, intensive soil sampling is required to obtain information at a significantly high resolution, which is time-consuming, costly, and requires repetition regularly. One technological innovation of note which can facilitate more targeted soil sampling to provide information for more cost-efficient mapping is electrical conductivity (EC). When utilized alongside precision application systems such as variable-rate technologies (VRTs), technologies like EC can improve crop yields and pasture management, reducing input costs and mitigating potential environmental impacts associated with chemical applications. However, there are limitations to these forms of active soil mapping technologies, including sensitivity to soil temperature, soil moisture, and plant matter, which can cause inconsistences in the data collection, and subsequently the data accuracy.

Other passive soil mapping technologies have emerged into the marketplace, offering a variety of solutions for professionals to investigate. Soil mapping technology companies have adopted different datasets to derive models, such as SoilOptix®– which is utilizing a combination of gamma radiation and physical soil samples to create high resolution topsoil maps, enabling growers to further identify and treat inconsistences across the field with a high degree of accuracy.

Impact of soil mapping on farming productivity

To begin with, as previously mentioned, farmers learn about soil fertility and production by visualizing the elevation, slope nutrients availability, organic matter content, and soil PH of their land. Farmers, policymakers, researchers, and technicians would benefit directly from these maps, as policymakers may implement appropriate policies depending on soil quality for specific locations, and technicians can apply effective technologies. The government can utilize the maps to make more efficient management decisions on fertilizer import, distribution, and recommendation, including blended fertilizers. It aids in crop selection and the development of extension programs to enhance soil health and increase agricultural yield while protecting soil from deterioration. To explore more about the benefits of soil mapping, visit