Measuring the 'voice' of the soil


Added 3 months ago



As reported in Wired, biochemical engineers at Washington State University in the US have developed a way to measure electric currents generated by soil microorganisms.

Their theory is that, since soil microbes produce electric currents as they conduct metabolic activity like recycling nutrients, higher currents would indicate greater activity … i.e., healthier soil.   

As Wired explains: “…up to 10,000 bacterial species can be found in a single gram of soil. The tiny organisms decompose material, hold onto carbon, transform nitrogen, and enhance the availability of important nutrients. To do these jobs, microbes need nutrients to live and reproduce, and their process of consuming energy produces activity that can be read by a sensor.” 

According to the researchers, while other tests can identify a soil’s chemical and physical composition, measuring microbial activity provides a better picture of the system’s active properties. "The electrochemical sensor is going to be the voice of the soil,” says researcher Haluk Beyenal.

The biochemical engineers in field tests have correlated superior yields with higher measured soil currents. Their next goal is to develop a probe that can deliver readings to farmers in real time via mobile devices. 

So, not yet available at Farmlands, but stay tuned! Here’s the full article.

 


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