|You are currently reading our legacy website. You can view our current projects here:|
Project HighlightsAfrica Soils Information System
World Agroforestry Centre's Global Research Project on Land Health
Go to website
featured as CGIAR story of the month (Feb 2006)
Sensing Soil Condition
Assessment of soil condition requires expensive and time-consuming measurements in the laboratory and the field. Many repetitions of the measurements are required to deal with high soil variability. As a result, scientists have been unable to measure and monitor soil condition (soil quality/health) and soil degradation over large areas.
Sensing Soil Condition is a
technological approach for rapid assessment and large area surveillance
of soil conditions for plant growth and
ecosystem functioning (e.g. hydrological regulation, erosion
Conventional assessments of soil capacity to perform specific production, engineering or environmental functions rely on local calibration of observations on soil functional attributes to measured soil properties. However, soil analyses are expensive and dense sampling is required to adequately characterize spatial variability of an area, making broad-scale quantitative evaluation difficult. Infrared reflectance spectroscopy, especially near infrared spectroscopy (NIR), is now routinely used for rapid non-destructive characterization of a wide range of materials in industry. Although soil scientists have investigated reflectance spectroscopy for several decades, the technology has not been widely taken up and routinely applied in soil studies.
World Food Prize winner Dr. Pedro Sanchez predicts that within a decade most developing countries will be using the technique for soil and plant analysis.
Our research focuses primarily on application of infrared spectroscopy in risk-based approaches to soil evaluation-approaches that explicitly consider uncertainty in prediction and interpretation of soil properties. We are applying these approaches to the development of soil evaluation and monitoring schemes at national and project scales, and in a pan-tropical research programme on the impWorld Agroforestry Centre of land use and land management on soil degradation.