Soil testing from the air could curb fertiliser use

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1 NEWS

Millions of dollars are being invested in new technology that could reduce the amount of fertiliser being put on farmland.

Scientists are working on a system to soil test from the air and more accurately apply fertiliser where it's needed in a big push to help the environment.

Containers on the ground are being used to collect the fertiliser dropped by a plane so scientists can see if new technology on the aircraft is putting it exactly where they want. 

Scientists are also working on soil testing from the air so not just areas like waterways and forests are avoided, but areas where nutrient levels are already high. 

Scientists are putting millions into a system which tests soil from the air, so that fertiliser can be used only in the areas which need it.
Source: 1 NEWS

Mike Manning of Ravensdown Fertiliser Company says this will save farmers money, use fertiliser more efficiently so they get production benefits, and help environmentally.

Given that soil testing is done in a lab, those behind the research say it's a challenging project, but possible. 

Sue Chok of Massey University says an aerial photo is taken of the farm with a camera that provides information the naked eye can't see.

The result is a map showing nutrient levels on the farm.

Like many New Zealand farms, one property in Raetihi, for example, is too steep, hilly and large to soil test the traditional way.

That means fertiliser is blanketed across paddocks, something farmers would like to change.

The seven-year project is costing around $12 million and being funded by the Ministry for Primary Industries and Ravensdown.

Farmers say whether the technology is adopted will also depend on whether they can afford it. 

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