SoilBio is a new indicator of soil health, based on the most comprehensive UK soil testing investigation to date. It was developed by SoilEssentials, a company specializing in precision farming products and services. SoilBio is said to be “a ground-breaking new test to understand the biodiversity of your soil and measure the quality for long-term, good soil management.”
Natasha Foote of EURACTIV.com reports that the technology is being developed to help farmers to accurately measure the impact of their actions on the soil, something which will be required to ensure they are appropriately remunerated for the ecosystem services they provide.
Robert Ramsay, director of SoilEssentials Ltd, the company behind the new tool, told EURACTIV that soil health is notoriously difficult to measure, saying that traditional methods of analysis are insufficient and often based on highly variable and unstable tests.
“If the new support schemes for farmers are going to be aimed at rewarding those who look after their soils, many will welcome that. The key question will then be ‘how can soil health be easily measured’ in order to comply with the proposed new regime?”
After four years of work, which involved the collection of one million data points from across the UK, the company designed a method of soil evaluation which combines the quantity and variety of nematodes present in the soil, using DNA analysis, combined with satellite information about the topography.
A broad range of nematodes exist at several trophic levels of the soil food web. Thanks to the nature of their variability and ubiquitousness, nematodes are an excellent indicator of soil health.
The methodology gives two, simple and accurate index values, which provide a repeatable and comparable metric.
Ramsay said, “the tool we have developed is a soil metric that gives an absolute repeatable reading of the functional health of the soil.”
“Rather than trying to directly measure soil health, SoilBio uses the organisms that live in the soil to reflect the environment that they have been inhabiting. That way it is more than just a snap-shot but also takes into account the last few years of soil management.”
Although the scheme is currently only in the UK, Ramsay said that he could “definitely” see this type of measurement tool rolled out across the EU.
The full EURACTIV report can be read here.
More information on the SoilBio test can be found on the SoilEssentials website here