CARC Explores New Innovations

May 22, 2017

Time is indispensable. As a farmer, time is valuable and can’t be wasted. With innovations in technology, farmers have new tools that will engage them in more time and cost effective ways to make use of their land. The technology that is now available allows them to detect what is in the ground and monitor crops in the field by providing data analysis illustrating how crop life is progressing, all of this done without harming the land or crops.

A few new tools that are now available are the Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) and the EM38. Both of these machines are capable of providing data analysis that would be beneficial for farmers. Ram Ray, a research scientist within the Cooperative Agricultural Research Center (CARC), is currently working with this equipment to demonstrate how practical and beneficial these products can be for farmers.

The ground penetrating radar, according to Ray, is a non-destructive geophysical method that produces a continuous cross-sectional profile or record of subsurface features, without drilling, probing or digging. This complex piece of equipment monitors and scans the top surface of the ground with the ability to transmit ultra high frequency radio waves underground using an antenna that is pulled by hand or vehicle. The energy that is transmitted into the ground is reflected from various buried objects or distinct contacts between different earth materials. The antenna receives the reflection of waves and registers and stores it in the digital control unit. The depth that the radar can travel underground is up to about 100 feet. (30 meters), which is a little longer in length than a full size NBA basketball court. The CAHS owned GPR can reach up to 30 feet below the ground surface.

The depth that the GPR can reach is dependent on the type of soil or rock the GPR is monitoring and the frequency of the antenna used. In materials such as dry sand and granite, the depth can reach up to100 feet, but for materials such as moist clays and shale, the signals will be absorbed and the penetration depth decreases. The depth also depends on the type of frequency the antenna has. Low frequency antennas can reach 25 to 100 feet or more but will often have low resolutions. As Ray explains, “This type of antenna can be used for investigating the geology of a site, such as for locating sinkholes or fractures, and to locate large, deeply buried objects.”

GPR can be used in various occupations. This equipment is especially recommended for a farmer to investigate what characteristics are under the land they own and to uncover the performance of a plant. Before a farmer starts planting on the land, it is vital to understand what is in the soil beforehand. Instead of manually digging and losing time and materials to investigate or locate what’s close to the surface, the GPR reveals anything in the ground that would impede the performance of a plant. Also, a GPR can show why a plant may not be growing as expected without having to break up or destroy the ground.

Like the GPR, the EM38 is also a scanning monitor device that will analyze the material in the ground. The EM38 has the ability to measure soil conductivity. EM38 is a electromagnetic soil mapping device used by precision agriculture and can be used on all types of crops such as grain, cotton, and turf. The electromagnetic sensors monitor the soil surface by towing the EM38 over the ground by hand or by quad bike. This equipment is able to give feedback on the electrical conductivity of soil, revealing salinity and soil moisture that would have a significant impact on crop yield and quality. Soil salinity problems in agriculture are common to arid and semi-arid agricultural areas where rainfall is not sufficient to transport salts from the plant root zone. Soil salinity limits the plant growth and reduces the crop yield. However, EM38 can be used to characterize the spatial variability of soil salinity, to monitor the spatial and temporal dynamics of soil salinity and to estimate potential crop yield. In addition, EM 38 is important for someone in agriculture for monitoring shallow groundwater and groundwater pollution, determine topsoil thickness, and characterize soils and soil moisture. This equipment may save a farmer time and money.

For profitability, efficiency is a must in agriculture. Farmers can move to new innovations involving precision agriculture to strategically save time and money. New equipment offers a new variable in analyzing land for planting crops and observing their performance. Ray will soon provide demonstrations at Prairie View A&M University that will be open to the public to display the benefits that will come with this fresh innovative technology.

Submitted by Johnathan Williams, DOMCiT Staff