FIELD Pilots – SOIL HEALTH
Access it here for free: https://soilhealth.capsella.eu/ under SPADE TEST function
Download the android-application here: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=eu.capsella.soilhealth.spade_test&hl=en
Agro ecological farmers need to take long term decisions around soil fertilisation and maintaining soil health. They need to forecast the effect of fertilisation on soil health and therefore on the sustainability of the production. This requires more frequent – and therefore easy and low cost – analysis of the soil.
So, in CAPSELLA we asked, ‘How might farmers maximise soil health by taking the best decisions for longer term fertility and so maximise output and biodiversity? How can we simplify the process so it is easy to do often, intuitive and low cost?’
After a period of exhaustive consultation and observation with farmers the CAPSELLA ICT and agronomy experts developed SOILapp an open access web and android application for self-assessment of soil quality. It provides farmers with an intuitive way to upload, view and share observations on their soil health and receive support on decision making. SOILapp draw on users’ own data shared from observations, Open data on soil and weather data from available open data sources, and proven soil health models.
Soil health (the holistic concept of chemical, physical and biological soil fertility) determines the continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals, and humans.
Farming systems designed and managed according to ecological principles aim to minimize the use of external inputs in agriculture. Following an agro ecological approach, soil health is a fundamental prerequisite for farming. In this context, crop fertilization management is based on nutrient cycling fostered by soil organic matter (SOM) content and quality rather than on the application of fertilizers as external inputs.
SOILapp was co designed with farmers from Greece and Italy responding to their needs for a soil health monitoring tool. The web-app integrates modelling of experimental data together with participatory assessments by the farmers to forecast the effect of fertilization on soil health and therefore on the sustainability of the production.
This piloting activity addresses the farmers’ needs such a:
- to be supported in forecasting the effect of fertilization practices on soil health;
- to share knowledge and practices on soil health self-assessment methodologies (e.g. spade test);
- to exchange information on long term impact of farm management practices on soil health;
- to compare model results with farmers field experience.
SOILapp has four main components:
(i) Farm data, given by the users through a web interface: location, soil data analysis, crop rotation and agronomic practices;
(ii) Soil health self-assessment, where farmers register on the app the results of spade tests (a step-by-step evaluation of the main soil features such as structure, layers, biodiversity, on a 30 to 45 cm deep sample of soil);
(iii) Soil model, based on the Rothamsted carbon model (Coleman & Jenkinson,1996), to estimate SOM dynamics in the soil;
(iv) Open data. Input of soil and weather data from available open data sources.
In SOILapp, the spade test function will guide the user an easy touch-enabled interface to define the soil features for different layers. At the end, summary results highlighting the positive and negative features are given and shared, eventually adding comments and a short description of farm practices.
The SOM modelling function will allow the user to select predefined crops and farming practices, or edit them with specific data. A shortlist of scenarios will be available in the CAPSELLA platform as function demonstrator.
Look SOIL HEALTH portal https://soilhealth.capsella.eu/ for testing the demonstrator.
Download the leaflet about SOIL HEALTH and the app: SOIL HEALTH Leaflet
For further information contact firstname.lastname@example.org (Mariateresa Lazzaro, Scuola Sant’Anna Pisa).
Download here the soil health pilot postcard.