A real-time soil analysis in minutes

New technology brings diagnostic tool to the field

Are you ready for in-field soil testing technology that in a matter of minutes can give you a read of what nutrients are available or perhaps, more importantly, deficient for your crop? Here comes NutriScan.

That’s the technology Concentric Ag and its plant nutrient division, ATP Nutrition, is offering to western Canadian farmers this fall, says Jarrett Chambers, Concentric Ag’s executive vice-president of marketing and sales.

After some pilot testing over the past year or so, along with extensive calibration with western Canadian soil conditions, Concentric Ag unveiled the “real-time nutrient diagnostic scanner” in September.

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It is a hand-held device with a sensor that the operator places in contact with a soil sample to be scanned. Within a matter of minutes, NutriScan not only measures nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, but also soil physical properties like pH, CEC (cation-exchange capacity) and organic carbon, along with intermediate nutrients (calcium, magnesium and sulphur) and the full line of micronutrients. The scanner makes the scan and can send a report to your smartphone or through a second hand-held printer it can print out a report of the various nutrient levels.

NutriScan is a hand-held device with a sensor the operator places in contact with a soil sample to be scanned. Within a matter of minutes, the scanner completes the scan of various nutrient levels and soil properties and sends a report to your smartphone or hand-held printer.

“NutriScan is being released on a limited basis this fall,” says Chambers. “We have great confidence in the technology, but we want to ease it into the marketplace and keep monitoring it to ensure it has optimal performance.”

Chambers says NutriScan doesn’t replace the need for a full, laboratory, soil analysis but sees it as being complementary. He makes the point that since only about 20 per cent of the fields in Western Canada are being soil tested on an annual basis, tools are needed to give producers a handle, or real-time report cards, on soil nutrient levels.

NutriScan will be marketed in a system similar to a cell phone, says Chambers — buy the hardware and pay an annual subscription fee. And it is a set fee that doesn’t increase whether the operator makes 10 scans or a 1000 scans.

NutriScan shouldn’t replace full, laboratory, soil analysis, but will complement those tests. Because only about 20 per cent of the fields in Western Canada are being soil tested on an annual basis, tools are needed to give producers a handle, or real-time report cards, on soil nutrient levels, says Jarrett Chambers, Concentric Ag’s executive vice-president of marketing and sales.
photo: iStock/Getty Images

Chambers sees the diagnostic tool being most commonly purchased by crop advisors or agricultural input retailers. Recommended fertilizer blends are applied to fields in the fall or at seeding, the crop gets growing, and now the agronomist can use the scanner in the field to get some measure of real-time nutrient levels, which could result in some in-crop top-up nutrient applications to make up for any nutrient deficiencies.

“The crop consultant could make several scans over the field and even develop a few simple zones with different nutrient levels that could be treated differently,” says Chambers.

The NutriScan technology was developed by AgroCares, a European-based technology company. AgroCares, based in Wageningen, the Netherlands, is described as, “a passionate team of scientists, agronomists, IT specialists and lab analysts dedicated to solving the world food gap by providing food producers with cutting-edge solutions to measuring nutrients and other parameters in soil, feed and leaf and thus producing sustainable yield and production increases.”

Concentric Ag formed an alliance with AgroCares to have them develop a NutriScan sensor for western Canadian soils.

To calibrate the sensor technology, Concentric worked with local agronomists, retailers and the AgroCares’ technical staff to collect and analyze more than 2,000 soil samples from across Western Canada. NutriScan combines sensor technology with AgroCares-developed algorithms and artificial intelligence elements to rapidly deliver customized reports to growers.

“This new distribution agreement ultimately benefits Western Canada’s growers,” says Rob Beens, managing director and chief commercial officer of AgroCares. “They’ll be among the first in North America to use our technology to reduce risk and increase crop yields.”

“Instead of waiting a week for lab results, our customers will have actionable data on their smartphones within minutes,” said Chambers. “Only 20 per cent of the arable fields in North America are soil-sampled and only half receive a complete soil analysis. NutriScan helps more growers adopt accurate precision management systems and also allows more fields to be sampled with no additional analytical cost. The end result is to build a prescriptive nutrient management program based off of real-time, complete, soil analysis.”

Soil testing is the first step in Concentric’s move to offer testing technology. Chambers says they hope to offer a similar scanning system for feed testing available in 2021, followed by scanning technology for plant tissue analysis.

About the author

Field Editor

Lee Hart

Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary.

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