Case Study 3: SoilDoc, portable testing kit

SoilDoc backpack. Credit SoilDoc

SoilDoc backpack. Credit SoilDoc

SoilDoc, created by the Agriculture and Food Security Center, part of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, is a portable, on-site soil testing kit that provides tailored fertiliser recommendations for farmers. The kit uses an Android® device to transmit soil information electronically, allowing extension workers to make on-the-spot diagnoses of soil constraints and targeted advice to farmers. The SoilDoc field kit can test soil pH, biologically active soil organic matter, electrical conductivity (a general measure of fertility as well as salinity) and micronutrients such as nitrate, sulphate, phosphate and potassium. The kit also incudes tools to measure physical properties of the soil and is capable of testing nutrients in the sap of growing crops. [1] SoilDoc is not yet commercially available but is expected to cost US$3 per test and takes 1-2 days for the results to come back.[2]

Currently under trail in Zambia, with support from DuPont, Columbia University and the University of Maryland, 100 soil samples have been collected and tested in Eastern Province with plans to collect 10,000 samples from across the country to validate soil mapping information and create a database for companies to formulate fertiliser packages.[3] Provided high adoption rates, farmers will be able to access and apply the right types of fertilisers exactly where they are needed. By increasing fertiliser efficiency through tailored recommendations, the creators of SoilDoc hope to minimise nutrient losses, increase yields, reduce input costs for farmers, and improve food security.

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