Regenerative agriculture is one of the ways through which farmers are trying to negate and slow down the depletion of natural resources. This article will talk about some of the top tools that we can use to quantify regenerative agriculture.
Mapping soil health with satellite data
Remote sensing is a great tool to use in soil and terrain mapping. It is well documented that satellite technology is suitable for monitoring objects above the ground, such as remote crop monitoring. Now we are able to predict some of these below-ground features using remote sensing. Soil is complicated. It is the cornerstone in hydrology, carbon sequestration, plant growth, overland flow equations, and all sorts of important modeling and environmental processes. However, it is cost-prohibitive to measure parameters like soil moisture, texture, and structure at a level to represent the environment truly. You can also not see what is going on beneath your feet because the horizons pictured in one area are not necessarily the same throughout the field.
There are different types of methodologies to monitor soil health, including passive and active radar, lidar, optical multispectral images, and spectroscopy. Most spectroscopy needs to be measured with a handheld device. The multispectral image data is not very practical for measuring soil properties. It is highly effective with NDVI vegetation indexes and looks at land degradation and land cover, especially if you have a good training algorithm set. It is also suitable for measuring mineralogy, texture, photosynthetic and non-photosynthetic vegetation, and the plant functional type like hardwood or softwood. However, it is not very good at picking out iron content, organic moisture, salinity, carbon content, or lichens.
One of the best ways to look at soil properties is through active-based radar monitoring. There are satellites out there that have active data that can extrapolate on a 30m scale.
Measuring soil carbon levels with a handheld probe
Nowadays, experts can use handheld soil probes that can be used to measure soil carbon levels. This is made possible using pressure sensors and VisNIR spectrometry. Not long ago, these devices were so big that they needed to be pulled by a truck. Now, it can be used as a simple hand drill due to the different innovations. On the tip of the probe is a small camera that can detect the presence of organic carbon using wavelengths. It also has resistance sensors that can be used to calculate the soil density. This device can calculate carbon sequestration in the soil using these two parameters.
Quantifying insect diversity using AI
Artificial intelligence is becoming a cornerstone of human society. It can now be used in almost every activity, including identifying insects on a farm. Some people may be wondering why we need to identify insects. Well, they are an indication of the type of soil and plants in a particular area. Samples of the insects are collected from different farms and sent to experts who use this data to train machine learning models. To ensure that the models are accurate, large amounts of data are needed. That is why companies that use these methods seek assistance from farmers and individuals to collect lots of data.
Evaluating bird diversity with microphones
We have already talked about monitoring insects and their importance to the farmers. Now, we will look at the technology that can be used to monitor birds. This is done to ensure that farmers have a clear picture of the birds that have made farms their habitat. It is vital for those who practice sustainable agriculture. Farmers can do this by placing microphones on their farms to record the bird sounds and compare them to those in their database.
Identifying insects using lasers
Insects are an essential part of our ecosystem. They beautify the environment, act as food for other animals, carry out pollination, and many others. Out of all of these uses, farmers are primarily interested in pollination. That is why they need a way to monitor the insects found on their farms. Also, experts can determine the type of soil based on the insects present in the area.
Monitoring insects can be a daunting and time-consuming task. However, a Denmark-based company has developed sensors that can get almost real-time information about the number, type, and activity of insects on a farm. These sensors use laser technology and photo bodies to analyze the wing patterns of insects. Once this data is obtained, it is used to train machine learning models that increase the accuracy of these systems.
As technology advances, we will get many more accurate tools that farmers in regenerative agriculture can use. All of the methods mentioned above are an important part of agriculture that can be implemented to save resources and costs.