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New technology for boosting agricultural productivity and monitoring the environment. Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by ., Kenya Mar 16, 2007
Technology , Food Security   Opinions


Agricultural researchers are introducing new technology that could set the stage for historic increases in African food production and provide the first practical tool available for monitoring compliance in environmental service schemes.

The new technology uses infra-red light to detect minute differences in soil and plant composition and structure. The process known as infra-red spectroscopy (IR) provides precise and timely recommendations about how to improve depleted soils, boost crop productivity, measure carbon sequestration, and other soil environmental functions such as water and erosion regulation. Researcher's associated with the project believe that within five years modern IR technology could provide the majority of Africa’s farmers with access to diagnostic support at affordable prices and all but eliminates the need for government to build costly soil and analytical lab.


Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) Spectroscopy, which is widely used for quality control in the pharmaceutical industry, was adopted by scientists at the World Agroforestry Center to diagnose soil fertility and crop nutritional constraints under African farm conditions.

The technique combines speed, low cost, and reliability, with the ability to accurately predict soil and plant performance, largely by-passing the need for conventional soil and plant analysis. The same instrument can also be used to analyze crop nutrients, as well as a range of agricultural inputs and products, including milk and grain, fertilizer, animal feed, and manure.

The technique is currently being used for land degradation assessment by national programs in Mali and Mozambique. In Kenya’s Lake Victoria region researchers apply IR to track large-area changes in soil quality related to shifts on soil organic carbon, soil fertility, recent soil erosion, field infiltration rate, and crop growth. Participants include the Millennium Villages initiatives and a World Bank project designed to restore thousands of hectares of degraded farm land.

For more information visit website: http/www.worldagroforestry.org/sensingsoil/



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