Purdue University Mapping Technology Could Help Farmers Better Understand Soil Functionality

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — (BUSINESS WIRE) — September 18, 2014 — A Purdue University agronomist has developed soil mapping technology that provides visual information about soil functionality and productivity, which could increase profitability for farmers as they cultivate crops.

Phillip Owens, associate professor of agronomy in Purdue's College of Agriculture, said the U.S. Department of Agriculture provides soil survey maps of the contiguous 48 states. These maps only classify and name soil types as broad units based on appearance, while Owens' functional maps provide a broader spectrum of information.

"These functional maps show properties like organic carbon content, clay content, the location of water tables, the native nutrient potential, catatonic exchange and more," he said. "They show categorized information like the highest- and lowest-yielding areas, how much water the soil would store after a rainfall event, and how fast a farmer could expect runoff. This information could impact how farmers choose to manage their land and crops in order to decrease costs and increase profits."

A video about the technology is available at http://youtu.be/7alAHvhBZ9Q.

Jenette Ashtekar, a doctoral graduate from Purdue's College of Agriculture, worked with Owens to create the maps by using algorithms that capture important relationships between the landscape, water and soil development.

"The computer algorithms we developed exploit the relationship between soil properties and the landscape. We then use the same algorithms to determine precise locations in the fields to sample so we can create the best map with a limited number of samples," she said. "After sampling, we use Geographical Information Systems, or GIS, technology to develop color-image maps that farmers can use in the field to inform their management decisions."

Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization has filed a patent application on the technology, which was developed with funding from the USDA and Purdue. Owens is looking for venture capitalists or agriculture firms to license and scale up the technology for the marketplace.

"The maps currently are in GIS format, but they can be delivered multiple ways," he said. "Ultimately farmers will want the information on their tractors so they can make decisions about where to plant, what seeding rate to use, where and how much to fertilize or more as they drive across the field."



Contact:

Purdue Research Foundation
Steve Martin, 765-588-3342
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