A Simple Way to Measure Soil Fertility

Indicate Bodensensor

This project looks for quick, cost-effective and reliable methods for measuring soil fertility in situ using portable VNIR spectroscopy.


Farmers wishing to boost production whilst using natural resources sustainably need to be familiar with the characteristics of their soil. The amount of fertiliser required for a plot can only be calculated properly when the level of nutrients already in the soil is known. Furthermore, soil texture influences the capacity for absorbing organic carbon.

To date, soil characteristics have been determined primarily by conventional laboratory analysis – a reliable but complex process. The need therefore exists for simpler methods which still show the spatial variability of soil fertility. A greater knowledge of soil characteristics at plot level will ensure better protection of soil fertility.

An alternative method to conventional laboratory analysis is VNIR (visible near-infrared) spectroscopy. This quick and cost-effective method has not been ready for use in practice so far.


The main aim of this project is to test whether portable VNIR spectroscopy devices can be used to measure various physical and chemical soil properties such as humus content, soil texture and nutrient content quickly and cost-effectively. This method would enable much more data to be obtained on spatial and temporal changes in soil fertility. Such knowledge will then help farmers to optimise soil management.

Original Title

Quantifying soil fertility by spectroscopic techniques: using proximal sensing for in-situ, rapid, cost-effective and reliable soil data acquisition at plot level