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New mapping system a “Game Changer” - The Scottish Farmer - Oliver Wood

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TerraMap-Closed-Gatefold-Leaflet-V5.1-copy-1024x784What is being described as a “game changing” soil mapping service, is being launched to UK growers.

Hutchinsons' TerraMap is said to revolutionise the way in which soil nutrient mapping is currently undertaken in the UK setting a new standard for accuracy in precision agriculture thanks to high definition soil scanning system, said its precision technology manager, Oliver Wood.

TerraMap uses gamma-ray detection technology that delivers resolutions of over 800 points/ha, providing high definition mapping of all common nutrient properties, pH, soil texture, organic matter and CEC as well as elevation and plant available water.

"With such a growing level of interest in soils, the launch of TerraMap comes at the perfect timing for farmers that are looking for that next level of accuracy in understanding their soils - which has not previously been possible. We have been looking for a new method of mapping soils that provides more accurate and repeatable results and can also leverage the multi-layer analysis within Omnia,” explained Mr Wood.

The results from the system are used to create maps within Hutchinsons' Omnia system, which can then be overlaid with additional field information such as black-grass, yields and so on, to create an accurate, consistent and detailed variable rate plans. Omnia now has more than 620 UK users, covering 375,000 ha.

The infield process of collecting data is carried out in two simple steps - scanning by driving a lightweight all-terrain vehicle fitted with the sensor over a field, and then taking soil samples to allow for each scan to be used to create the individual map layers.

Manufactured by Canadian company SoilOptix, this scanning technology is based on a scaled-down version of airborne sensors that originates in mineral prospecting used in other countries. It measures naturally emitted isotopes like caesium and potassium, that are very stable due to their long half-lives.

The significance of this methodology is that it is not affected by soil moisture compaction, crop cover or cultivation state. This means that there are few limitations to when TerraMap can be used offering a much wider operating window compared to other soil scanning systems.

"We have taken satellite imagery of fields that showed up areas of soil differences quite clearly and when we overlaid this with the texture maps created by TerraMap they were identical. This has been confirmed by in-field ground truthing across a number of sites. We have also tested the results between seasons and over different cultivations, and they have remained consistent.”

Thurlow Estates manager Andrew Crossley, trialled the system, and said: "We had used another scanning service back in 2012 and it threw up some questionable results, which we put down to interference to the scanning from the chalky soils and changes in soil structure, but nothing was
conclusive.”

When we were introduced to this system, we felt that it would work well with our soil types so it was worth giving a go. The results have been impressive and are more accurate than previous results."

TerraMap is available from Hutchinsons in a standard or premium service offer. The standard service measures nine criteria: P, K, Mg, pH and % of clay, sand, silt, texture and elevation, while the premium service also measures calcium, sodium, manganese, boron, copper molybdenum, iron, zinc, sulphur, OM, CEC and plant available water, delivering 21 layers of data for each field.

TerraMap Layers