SiS has provided insight into what’s impeding crop yields time and time again. For me, the key point of difference to SiS compared to traditional soil testing methods is the fact that you can access information on how a certain soil attribute is behaving through the soil profile and whether it’s causing issues.
Some work I conducted with a sugarcane customer and his advisor was included as a case study at a major sugarcane industry event, Project Catalyst, late last month. The work has been ground breaking for both the grower, in properly understanding his soil constraints and for us, who are beginning to understand the magnitude of what SIS can tell us about soil. SiS analysis detected yield limiting exchangeable aluminium and was able to show the severity of the aluminium as it moved through the soil profile. With the SiS data, we were able to develop a spatially correct aluminium map, showing where the yield limiting patches were in the sugarcane field. This map was an industry first.
SiS has also found its place and reputation among the broadacre industry. Recently, I worked with a customer in the Darling Downs, where SiS analysis was used to understand the drainage limitations of a paddock. There were spots in the growers’ field that could not produce any crop, SiS analysis showed this was caused by the presence of salt in his top soil. Interestingly, we used SiS layers to look at how water interacts with the soil geology and were able to identify clay and sand percentage areas. In parts of the paddock, there were particularly heavy sodic clays which prevented water from being able to travel through the soil profile. When the water was blocked from moving, it would eventually rise, carrying salt to the root zone of the soil. We developed a chloride map to understand where in the paddock water was bringing salt to the surface, which will assist the grower in deciding where to install drainage lines, so the water can move off the paddock properly.
A lot of the SiS work we have been doing has revolved around paddock drainage and customers wanting to detect areas in a field that have pooling issues. During a recent job, we were able to detect where compaction was occurring in a field and broke it down into 5cm increments. This was done with the help of Trimble’s SiS specialist, based in the US. By having this information layered so finely, the customer was able to understand the extent of the paddock’s compaction and where to develop drainage trenches in a particularly difficult soil environment.
All of the advancements we’ve made with SiS year have been made possible due to the enthusiasm and expertise of the US SiS team, headed by Mark Kuehn. Mark has been a great help in giving us access to tools that help us to understand additional layers of soil data that our industries haven’t usually dealt with. We will continue to learn more about SiS’ potential to have a deeper understanding to the complex soil environment that farmers deal with day to day.
As the agricultural industry continues to move forward in feeding the world, having access to information that helps them manage crop variability and improve their production is going to be the key to their success. We believe SiS has that power.