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Soil Quality Scheme May Get A Technology Boost

To analyse the soil quality of farms across the country, the government’s massive scheme may get a technology boost. The Department of Science and Technology (DST) is looking to link the programme with a research project at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay. That uses sophisticated imaging techniques and can picture the nutrient balance of a patch of land without necessarily collecting soil sample.

D. Ramakrishnan, Professor, IIT Bombay’s Earth Sciences Department explains that, 'Hyper Spectral Imaging' means analysing extremely detailed images of an object — frequently to the scale of nanometres and then reconstructing its constituent elements.

Also in this using custom-developed algorithms, satellite-images, or those taken from low flying planes or drones, can be used to calculate the proportion of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous which are the three most vital nutrients as well as other minerals in the soil and be used to gauge its health.

Mr. Ramakrishnan, who leads the project, told, “this kind of spectroscopy can be used to analyse soil health…though it has wider applications in geology, characteristics of air pollution etc."

He also said, “In about 2.5 years we hope to have a complete database of samples across India…however to be able to map the country effectively we’d need satellite pictures. Currently no Indian satellite has the capability to take nano-scale resolution pictures.”

Also his group is attempting to build a database of soil samples across the country and has gleaned about a third of their requirements.

He is aiming to build this technology to the extent it can be transferred to a private company and it then uses it for schemes such as soil health analysis. To measuring organic carbon and phosphorous in a soil sample via images, so far the researchers have figured out ways.

The DST said that to evolve a programme and apply this technology for the government’s mission, it is in talks with the Ministry of Agriculture and State departments.

Murali Mohan, a senior adviser in the DST said, “We are looking to have more State officials come on board.”


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