Malaysia: Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) developed ‘Soil Properties Mapping System (SOILPROP)’. It aims to enable local farmers to manage their paddy fields in terms of optimising fertiliser input and rice yield.
The setup for the SOILPROP system centres on a vehicle, usually a tractor, to which an array of plates called the EC (electrical conductivity) sensor probe is attached, that can measure the conductivity of the soil. A DGPS antenna is placed on the probe, with a DGPS receiver situated in the tractor cab where a PC with the SOILPROP software will also be mounted.
Once the EC mapping is completed, the SOILPROP software steps in and converts the EC zones into nutrient zones created within a GIS. Farmers will use this information to regulate their fertiliser application rates. The fertiliser recommendation map is displayed on the computer screen mounted in the tractor cab on real-time basis. The fertiliser recommendation maps are also accessible by the paddy farmers through a web portal called the Web Smart Farmer.
“The idea came about because paddy farmers always apply the same amount of fertiliser uniformly across the paddy field, no matter the content of the soil,” said Professor Ir Dr Mohd Amin Mohd Soom, a Professor of Soil and Water Engineering at UPM’s Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, and Head of the Smart Farming Research Centre at the Faculty of Engineering, UPM. “Applying fertilisers or any chemicals are necessary in crop production, especially with crops like rice that is grown twice per year. Some farmers think that the more fertilisers they apply, the better the crop yield, but this is not the case.”
“What is unique about this system is that it is the only known variable rate technology available for paddy farmers here in Malaysia,” added Professor Amin. “The system we have developed is the only known quick way so far that can identify nutrient variability in the soil.”