Nitrate in agricultural soils: Bayreuth research project seeks to enable area-wide measurement on site

Nitrate in agricultural soils: Bayreuth research project seeks to enable area-wide measurement on site

2021-06-08

The high nitrate contamination in soils due to high fertiliser inputs is an environmental problem worldwide, especially in intensively used agricultural regions. To remedy this problem, Prof. Dr.-Ing. Gerhard Fischerauer from the Chair of Measurement and Control Systems at UBT has launched a new research project.

The use of the electrochemical impedance spectroscopy (EIS) is intended to enable farmers a continuously measure of nitrate content in the soil over a large area. The large-scale measurement is to be carried out with an apparatus attached to agricultural equipment, such as a tractor. The measured spectra provide conclusions about the chemical composition of the soil and the percentage of the substances. The idea of the research project is to obtain an overall picture of the nitrate concentration on the arable land. So far, individual soil samples have been analysed in more detail in the laboratory, which only have selective significance and do not reflect the nitrate content for the entire area if the arable land was not entirely sampled. In addition to the ecological advantage, project leader Prof. Fischerauer also sees the economic added value for farmers. Due to the area-wide analysis, fertiliser can be applied in a targeted manner and at the same time production costs and environmental pollution, which are linked to overfertilisation, can be reduced. The method is already established in the laboratory under standard conditions. A new challenge will be to obtain reliable measurement results in the field. Influencing factors are temperature, soil moisture and other chemical compounds besides nitrate, which the system must recognise and subtract.

The project is funded by the Volkswagen Foundation in the "Experiment!" programme for two years.

You can read the press release here.

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