Dr Ryan Farquharson1, Dr Jeff Baldock1, Dr Uta Stockmann2, Dr Lynne Macdonald1, Dr Brendan Malone2, Mrs Seija Tuomi2, Mr David Benn3
1CSIRO Agriculture and Food, Glen Osmond, Australia, 2CSIRO Agricuture and Food, Acton, Australia, 3CSIRO IM&T, Glen Osmond, Australia
Infrared (IR) spectroscopy can provide estimates of the quantities of organic carbon in soil as well as its allocation to fractions isolated and measured by physical and chemical means. Rapid and cost-effective estimates of a range of soil properties by IR spectroscopy allow more samples to be analysed, making the acquisition of large data sets feasible, as exemplified by the national soil carbon dataset collected by the Australian Soil Carbon Research Program. These data sets open up a number of opportunities for spatial modelling at a range of scales and for monitoring of soil condition, with applications in greenhouse gas accounting and mitigation, and management of resources in agricultural enterprises, for example. Here we present a roadmap to take this technology out of the research domain and make it available to a range of users. By combining measurement, prediction and modelling, and creating a system where information flow is circular, synergistic benefits to both end users and technology developers will be realised. For example, analysis of spectra in real time might identify samples for which current prediction algorithms are unreliable, which can then be further analysed and added to calibration sets, potentially providing the end user with more reliable results. Land managers make multiple decisions that balance a number of objectives, including productivity, sustainability and profitability. In the soil organic matter space, we recognise that carbon fractions are just one of many pieces of information that need to be brought together into a decision support framework. To do so will require a concerted effort involving a range of players including researchers, analytical laboratories, data scientists, software engineers, government departments, advisory bodies, agronomists, grower groups, industry and funding bodies. We hope that by articulating a roadmap we can bring these players together and expedite the path to impact for soil spectroscopy.
Ryan Farquharson is an Experimental Scientist in the Carbon and Nutrient Cycling group at CSIRO Agriculture and Food. Based at the Waite Campus in Adelaide since 2002, his research interests include greenhouse gas balances of agricultural systems, modelling approaches for greenhouse gas inventories and life cycle analysis, biological nitrogen fixation by the legume/rhizobium symbiosis and more recently, the use of infrared spectroscopy for a range of applications in soil, including quantifying soil carbon.