Soil nutrient detection for precision agriculture with handheld LIBS
There’s increasing interest in accurate measuring of Soil Organic Carbon (SOC), both in the sectors of carbon sequestration and soil health, as well as smaller agricultural industries. Because of the volatility of SOC in soil, often due to the choice of land management practice, understanding the fluctuation of levels provides valuable data for all aspects of agriculture, farming and related fields.
Soils are diverse – even in locations that are in close proximity to each other. Understanding SOC, the amount of carbon in the soil that’s present due to vegetation, crops and other living organisms, provides farmers and landowners with valuable information – both in the present and over time – as to which management practices are most beneficial.
Until recently, such analysis could only be carried out through lengthy processes that involved sending soil samples to the lab for evaluation. However, recent technological breakthroughs means that it’s now possible to take measurements of total organic carbon on-site, thanks to the evolution of handheld LIBS technology.
The LIBS Advantage
Laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy, or LIBS, uses a pulsed laser to define the elements within a material sample. This technology has been harnessed into a handheld tool that’s capable of carrying this out on soil and other materials. The SciAps Z-300 Handheld LIBS allows for the analytical process to now be carried out in-situ, with virtually instantaneous results.
SOC isn’t the only measurement that can be taken – a full spectrum of nutrients and components can be determined to provide a total organic carbon total, as well as that of SIC (soil inorganic carbon).
The impact of such testing is immense. It negates the need for lab conditions, spectral soil libraries and chemical pre-treatment, with all the delays and associated costs they bring. Having such data at your fingertips allows for constant reassessment of soil quality and composition, leading to enhanced land management and – ultimately, for the agricultural industry – a higher yield.
The process is fast and simple. The sample is placed into a briquetting cup and pressed into a dense pellet. The sample is then subjected to a cleansing pulse followed by two measurement pulses. Multiple locations can be quickly tested if necessary. Results are returned within seconds.
This exciting innovation is a valuable asset for the agricultural industry. The role of handheld LIBS is being embraced in other areas as well, such as archaeology, mining, conservation and forensic science. Being able to perform such analysis in the field presents incredible opportunities – and the farming industry is only one of the sectors that stand to benefit.
Such technology is just one example of how equipment provider Nexxis is changing how companies view their equipment procurement process. Rather than relying on what are often outdated choices to service their needs, the Nexxis difference solves complex organisational requirements with both off-the-shelf and bespoke engineered solutions.