Unlocking the secrets of the soil: new technology helps Hartpury’s agricultural innovators dig deep into future of farming


Agricultural technicians have been digging deep on Hartpury’s farms to scan the fields and map the soils; using state of the art technology to ensure that the College can make the most of every inch of the land.

A SoilQuest scanner was used to scan and map the fields at Hartpury’s Home Farm and Okle Clifford. This measures electrical conductivity through the soil at various depths and the data is then used to produce a soil map which shows variation throughout the field.

Land management’ zones are then created on the map depending on the conductivity of the soil. Samples of the soil collected from each different zone are analysed in a lab in order to create a soil analysis map.

Hartpury University Centre Agriculture lecturer, Patrick Tandy, said: “Farming is under pressure from the increasing world population and diminishing resources. Efficiency and economy are, therefore, more important than ever, and it’s vital that this doesn’t come at a cost to the environment.

“To make the best use of our land, we need to understand what lies beneath. Agrii’s SoilQuest service can give us a greater understanding of the soil and the use of satellite technology allows us to target the resources we put into the soil. That helps us to make the most of our estate and improve our margins.”

Soil variations within a field means that the composition, mineral content and acidity may be different from one furrow to the next. This can present challenges to farmers when considering which seed rate to plant and how they target the correct rate and type of fertiliser at any given zone within a field.

Using variable rate technology on top of the zones identified by scanning allows farmers to vary the rates sown and the amount of fertilizer applied while on the move. This should enable farmers to maximise plant yields and also to minimise the amount of fertiliser they need to use, which has a positive impact on the environment.

Tandy added: “Precision systems such as this are key to bringing farming into the future. Our College and University Centre agriculture students – the farmers of the future - will be eagerly awaiting the results of the scans to see what the soil has to offer and how best they can apply this new knowledge. There is even an app that brings all the satellite and scan data straight to a smartphone!”

SoilQuest is a key element in the precision agronomy department of Agrii, the UK’s leading agronomy company, who have been working closely with farm staff at Hartpury. The system has been successfully used on farms all over the country, from Scotland to Southampton.

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