As Spanish agriculture becomes international and opens to new markets, its sophistication and the importance of the followed procedures increase when making decisions about production. These decisions will be much more accurate as far as we have more information to analyze, so it is necessary to search data of all kinds. An important source of data is soil mapping, a technique which is being increasingly used by Spanish farmers.
Soil mapping is a technique which has become usual within the so-called precision farming, which uses the most advanced technology to obtain the most accurate information about the condition of the soil, the weather and the crops.
- Humidity. It is important to know the humidity of every area of the crops. In this way, the irrigation can be managed better.
- Composition of the soil. To identify which elements the soil consists of is essential to know which crops and varieties fit every land plot better.
- Ph and conductivity. To determine values like the ph or the conductivity of the soil is fundamental in order to choose the fertilizers and other nutrients better.
- Fertility. Knowing what fertility can be expected from a a land plot is basic to properly choose the times of cultivation.
- Texture. The texture of the soil will allow us to know which sort of fertilizers we can use at every moment and every place.
Mapping or soil mapping allows us to know much better the composition, features and specificity of the agricultural land plot we are cultivating. It deals with the creation of a a cartography that identifies every plot founded on parameters which have to do with the profitability of the farming activity:
We have several techniques available to make maps that give us different layers of information about the soil. Traditionally works were made with open soil pits but nowadays we can resort to much more advanced tools. The main ones are these:
- Electrical and electromagnetic sensors. One of the most frequent ways of mapping the soil is to measure its electrical and electromagnetic features. These values will allow us to understand its composition and many other useful pieces of information. The machines which make this sort of maps use to be terrestrial, like, for example, a tractor furnished with a device capable of measuring these electrical values.
- Optical sensors. In this case, machines are used which can detect the differences of colour which the soils present, allowing the interpretation of their characteristics thanks to this information. The drones have been increasingly included in these procedures. They are able to take really accurate pictures of the soil from suitable heights.
- Mechanical sensors. A quite frequent method to know the composition of a land plot is using tools that, when clamped to the soil, allow to determine which sort of elements form this one and in which densities.
- Electro-chemical sensors. These devices are capable of determining the presence of potassium, nitrates and other elements, as well as their electrical characterisation.
The final idea is to have a document available which contains enough layers to enable a reading as accurately as possible of the soil, its condition, prospect, virtues and defects.
With these data, the farmer can take much more correct decisions when time is come to apply different techniques which may need his/her crops. For example, he/she can plan much better the use of his/her agricultural mistblowers.
Knowing the condition of the land plot, he/she can identify which crops will come ahead of time and which ones will be late. That information will allow him/her to schedule the phytosanitary treatments so that he/she can apply them in the proper moment and with the suitable dose.
The soil mapping is, thus, an indispensable tool in the present agriculture, because it gives us the needed information to reduce the margins of mistake in our business.