Hutchinsons has launched a new soil nutrient mapping service, which it says is the first high definition system available in the UK, with an extended data collection window.
TerraMap uses gamma-ray detection technology to delivers resolutions of over 800 points per hectare, providing high definition mapping of all common nutrient properties, pH, soil texture, organic matter and cation exchange capacity (CEC) as well as elevation and plant available water.
Data from TerraMap is used to create field maps within Hutchinsons' Omnia precision farming system, currently used by 620 UK farmers covering 375,000 hectares. The maps can be overlaid with additional crop protection and crop management information to create accurate, consistent and detailed variable rate plans within Omnia.
The data collection involves two steps - scanning via a lightweight all-terrain vehicle over a field, plus soil sampling to allow for each scan to be used to create individual map layers. The scanner made by the Canadian company SoilOptix, is based on proven airborne sensor technology used for mineral prospecting. It measures naturally emitted isotopes such as caesium and potassium that are very stable due to their long half-lives.
"It's an entirely passive sensor that it is not affected by soil moisture, compaction, crop cover or cultivation state," notes Hutchinsons' precision technology manager Oliver Wood.
"This means that there are very few limitations to when TerraMap can be used - offering a much wider operating window compared to other soil scanning systems."
Mr Wood says TerraMap sets a new standard for accuracy in precision agriculture. "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," he explains.
"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.
"With 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," Mr Wood concludes.
TerraMap is available at two service levels. The standard service, at £24/ ha, will measure P: K; Mg; pH; % of clay, sand, silt; texture; and elevation. In addition to these nine markers, the premium service, costing £32/ha, will also measure calcium; manganese; boron; copper; molybdenum; iron; zinc; sulphur; organic matter; CEC; and plant available water- totalling 21 layers of data for each field.
More information is available at www.omniaprecision.co.uk/terramap/ or from the Omnia Services Centre on 01526 831000