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The EM38 Project

Farmers rely on information sources to direct crop input decisions. However, many fail to account for soil characteristics and the variability of the weather. Once seeding is complete, farmers have few options to measure the real-time changes in crop input demands and spatial patterns in the field.

To get the data, a UTV pulls a sled along the field with the EM38 sensor inside.

This project evaluates the use of an EM38 soil conductivity sensor as a real-time soil moisture mapping tool. Static crop yield projections based on pre-season information is often ineffective. Real-time data collected in-season could allow farmers to use a near real-time efficiency of crop production inputs such as water and nitrogen fertilizer.

Check out the set up in action

The project objectives inclulde

  • Measure real-time soil parameters and detect changes using in-season soil Electrial Conductivity (EC) surveys
  • Improve yield projection accuracy using in-season soil EC data
  • Evaluate potential to manage water inputs using real-time EC data using a proof of concept on-farm trial
  • Evaluate potential to manage dryland nitrogen fertilizer inputs using real-time EC data using a proof of concept on-farm trial
  • Measure GHG emission risks

This study uses a field-scale precision agriculture approach including two 160-acre fields for two years each. One field will be under irrigation and the other will be a dryland location. The irrigation site will evaluate the use of in-season data for water management while the dryland site will evaluate data for nitrogen management. Year one, the project will evaluate the uses and efficacy of in-season EC data. Year two, the project will test the application of this data for crop input management.

Be sure to check out the project page – In-season soil conductivity mapping – as this project continues to update.

Lewis Baarda takes a moment to share a new piece of technology, the EM38 soil conductivity sensor, and the project centered around the equipment.