Indian Institute of Soil Science Indian Institute of Soil Science

भाकृअनुप-भारतीय मृदा विज्ञान संस्थान


From the Director's Desk....
Digital Soil Science: Indian Perspective

Nutrient and water stress is the major risk factors for agriculture in India. A precise characterization and in depth understanding of such stress is urgently required to enhance crop production. This can be achieved through modern technologies which assist to improve sensing, computing, communication and control within the devices driving towards digital soil science. Digital soil mapping (DSM) is one such innovation which explicates spatial soil information with the help of recent advanced technologies. Digital soil mapping has moved from research phase to operational phase across the countries. The countries like India which are facing challenges due to severe land degradation require accurate and quantitative soil resource information that can be used by planners, scientists, and stakeholders for preparation of suitable action plan. At present there are several institutes working on soil characterization at different scales. The Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) has uploaded more than 100 mobile apps on its website developed by ICAR institutes, State Agricultural Universities and Krishi Vigyan Kendras. These mobile apps are developed in different fields of agriculture including natural resources management. Currently, precision farming is one of the most discussed areas in farming. Robotics – Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)-based images can help in in-depth field analysis, crop monitoring, scanning of fields and so on. Computer vision technology and drone data can be combined to ensure rapid actions by farmers. Feeds from drone image data can generate alerts in real time to accelerate precision farming. Drone technology is giving agriculture a high-tech makeover like (i) Soil and field analysis: By producing precise 3-D maps for early soil analysis, seed planting and gathering data for managing irrigation and nitrogen levels. (ii) Irrigation: Sensor drones can identify moisture-stress parts of a field for scheduling irrigation. In general, increasing the yield output by decreasing the inputs has always remained a desired target of the farmers. Sensors are used to measure the crops growth at maximum efficiency with accurate identification of issues and problems. Monitoring systems and small sensors prepared by the nanotechnology has also a great potential to address this important issue. Nano-sensors can be used as nano-biosensors to control soil nutrients, which have helped to reduce fertilizer consumption and environmental pollution. Thus smart farming practices can be developed by using artificial intelligence to minimize loss of farmers and provide them with high yield. Using artificial intelligence platforms, one can gather large amount of open data from government and public websites or real time monitoring of various data is also possible by using IoT (Internet of Things). Thereafter, these data can be analyzed with accuracy to enable the farmers for addressing all the uncertain issues faced by the farmers.

Overall, digital technologies can help farmers to analyze soil/crop health for deciding right crop in each season with best possible yield. Currently, Indian government has taken strong steps to popularize Digital Technology which will help to modernize and organize rural agricultural activities. The deployment of technology is very important to make schemes of the Ministry successful. The ICAR/Government of India has also set up 713 Krishi Vigyan Kendras and 684 Agricultural Technology Management Agencies at district level for dissemination of technologies among the farming community. Although digital technologies offer vast opportunities for application in agriculture, there still exists a lack of familiarity with high tech machine learning solutions in farms of our country. Hence, we urgently need digital technologies to ensure sustainable intensification of agricultural systems in India.

Dr. Ashok K. Patra

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