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Measuring soil flux as a way to understand GHG emissions from soil

Meeting the challenge of climate change with soil flux analysis

For growers, agri-chemical companies, producers and food retailers monitoring and measuring positive and negative soil flux can help balance greater productivity, sustainability and improved soil health. What is soil flux analysis and what impact does it have on climate change?

Driving net zero reduction

Global Green House Gas emissions are a sensitive topic politically with international agreements of targets and the drive to a net zero status, but there is a debate going on also about who is the most culpable.

GHG emissions - IPCC 2014 | Soil Flux Analysis | Agri-EPI blog | Soil and Crop Technology Solutions

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is by far the highest proportion of GHG emissions at around 75%, but Methane (CH4) and Nitrogen Oxide (N2O), although less in proportion, are respectively 28 times and 310 times more potent than CO2. Most of these emissions come from the burning of fossil fuels for energy production, transportation, manufacturing and building but land use also plays a significant part.

In 1973, the National Soil Inventory (England and Wales) was set to obtain an unbiased estimate of soils, and their carbon content. Since the original survey, further sampling has shown that in most soil types, there has been a progressive decline in carbon content, and the inference is that other temperate regions would show similar traits.

Losses due to land use activity

Inefficient use of fertilisers results in N2O being last as emissions to the atmosphere, and nitrates being leached through the soil into water courses. By targeting applications more effectively to ensure the crop is only given what it can utilise we are able to reduce these losses. Using variable rate applications, or slow release Urea are examples of how land managers are changing behaviour.

Storage and application of slurry and manure also result in emissions. Covered stores, better timing of applications and use of dribble bars and direct injection of slurry rather than splash plates can all contribute.

Rumination results in emissions of CH4 which give cattle and sheep a particularly bad image. This is more a factor in international production than UK, where many animals graze pasture unsuitable for crop production, and that permanent grassland can also be considered a net carbon sink.

Deforestation for agriculture, although not an issue in the UK, but certainly in other parts of the globe for production of soya and palm oil amongst other commodities has a significant impact. We not only lose the of that forest to act as a carbon sink, but the felled and cleared timber both emits CO2 and subjects the cleared areas to the potential of erosion.

Cultivations result in emissions from varied sources, the tractor exhaust (combatted in recent years by addition of EGR and AdBlu technology). The soil surface, as each cultivation releases naturally occurring gases into the lower atmosphere (minimum tillage and direct drilling have had some impact by reducing the amount of soil disturbance)

Natural ecological processes in the soil sub-surface produce and consume gases, and as the soils warm due to climate change, microbial metabolic rates increase resulting in increased CO2 emissions. Gases diffused from the soil surface into the lower atmosphere is known as positive flux, and gases absorbed into the soil is known as negative flux, the balance between the two will determine whether soils are a net source, or a net sink of GHG.

Soil Flux chambers

To calculate this, we need to collect accurate data on soil respiration rates, which can be done by using soil flux chambers. There are several different manufacturers of soil flux chambers, but they can be separated into two main categories.

  1. Closed chambers where the gases accumulate in the headspace and are sampled by syringe and stored for laboratory processing and analysis.
    • PP Systems CPY-5 Canopy Assimilation Chamber (#1)
  2. Automated chambers which can provide a timely method of sampling, as when coupled with a multiplexer and an analyser, up to 12 chambers can be linked in series and be deployed over a long period to sample and analyse in the field (subject to a reliable power supply)
    • Eosense eosAC Automated Chamber (#2)
    • Eosense Multiplexer (#3)
    • Picarro G2508 for analysis of CO2, CH4, N2O, NH3, H2O (#4)
    • Picarro G2201-i for analysis of CO2, CH4 and their C13 isotopes (#5)

 

Soil Flux Analysis | Agri-EPI blog | Soil and Crop Technology Solutions

 

All of the above equipment is designed to be used in the laboratory or the field (subject to a satisfactory and reliable electricity supply). The Picarro G2201-i (#5) is particularly useful for academic research applications, as it is more robust and user friendly than typical mass spectrometry methods (McCloskey et al 2020).

Strawberry gas flux measurement research

The time saving that can be achieved by automated chamber equipment deployed in a field experiment is demonstrated by Pamona College, California when monitoring soil flux in a commercial strawberry crop. The time in the field and the interpretation was the same using both systems, but the processing of the data represented a huge time saving for the trial, reducing the days from 68 down to 1.

Monitoring soil flux in Pamona College in California | Soil Flux Analysis | Agri-EPI blog | Soil and Crop Technology Solutions

Soil commercial and research enquiries

For further information on this equipment and the possibilities of incorporating into commercial or research studies with the Soil Flux 360 solution, please contact Duncan Ross, Business Development Manager Crops at Duncan.ross@agri-epicentre.com or fill out our online contact form.

Demonstration of positive effects of Precision Soil Mapping

Agri-EPI Centre hosted a Precision Soil Mapping Showcase Event to demonstrate how Precision Soil Mapping can take precision farming to the next level. The project, in conjunction with AgSpace, IPF, Cranfield University and James Hutton Institute, is near completion. This event presented the commercial benefits of the projects. Specifically, how it can lower the entry cost to precision farming making it more viable for a wider community.

The challenge

The benefits of precision farming, dividing land into management zones according to soil characteristics, has been proven to yield better results when compared to conventional farming. The perceived high entry cost into precision farming has long been a barrier to entry for some smaller arable farmers.

Agri-EPI Centre held a number of workshops over the country in conjunction with LEAF and Innovative Farmers to gain feedback on the development of the precision soil map and identify areas of future development in the wider precision farming industry. These events were held at Agri-EPI Satellite Farms across the country each with a specific focus such as conventional arable, mixed farming and organic farming.

Read more information about the Soil Mapping project here.

If you would like to know more about the outcomes of the project or this event, please contact us via enquiries@agri-epicentre.com.

Collaboration partners

Precision Soil Mapping Showcase event August 2018 partners

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Keep up to date with the latest impact and results of our work, plus, news, innovation and approaches across the sector. Read our latest news and Agri-EPI blogs.

PepsiCo chief opens Plant Phenotyping and Soil Health Facility

Agri-EPI Centre are pleased to be leading participant in supporting Indra Nooyi, Chairman and Chief Executive of PepsiCo, one of the world’s largest food and beverage companies in officially opening the Plant Phenotyping and Soil Health Facility at Cranfield University. The facility is a key component of UK’s Agri-Tech Strategy and has been set up to enable industry, famers, agronomists and agrichemical companies to understand soil management issues and to observe changes in crop health over space and time.

Agri-EPI Centre and CHAP are full partners of the Plant Phenotyping and Soil Health Facility and work together to bring the solutions to the industry. This facility provides unique primary-harvest to post-harvest technology at Cranfield University and is funded by Innovate UK through both Agri-EPI Centre and CHAP. To discuss a research collaboration or a commercial project using the Plant Phenotyping and Soil Health Facility, please contact Agri-EPI Centre via enquiries@agri-epicentre.com.

On the day the AgriTech facility was officially opened, Indra Nooyi – who is considered one of today’s world-leading businesswoman – also received an honorary degree from Cranfield University.

Previously, Mrs Nooyi served as PepsiCo’s President and Chief Financial Officer. Since joining the company in 1994, she has directed the company’s global strategy and led its transformation, including the acquisition of Tropicana and the merger with Quaker Oats that brought the Quaker and Gatorade businesses to PepsiCo; the merger with PepsiCo’s anchor bottlers; and the acquisition of Wimm-Bill-Dann, the largest international acquisition in PepsiCo’s history. PepsiCo’s main businesses include Quaker, Tropicana, Gatorade, Walkers and Pepsi-Cola, with more than $63 billion in annual net revenue.

To discuss a research collaboration or a commercial project using the Plant Phenotyping and Soil Health Facility, contact us.

Minister’s key role for Cranfield in ensuring quality of UK soils

George Eustice MP, Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, will today announce on a visit to Cranfield University, that DEFRA has confirmed its continued and long-term support for the National Reference Centre for Soils and associated information system, LandIS, hosted by the University.

The soil collections and associated data, contained within LandIS. will underpin and support the UK Government’s goals announced in its ’25-Year Environment Plan’, providing the basis for achieving sustainable soil management by 2030.

Previous research released by Cranfield University has revealed that soil degradation costs the economy in England and Wales an estimated £1.2billion per year. The National Reference Centre for Soils, at Cranfield, will be invaluable to establishing the metrics to assess progress towards the 25-year goals.

LandIS is a substantial environmental information system, operated by Cranfield University. It includes soil and soil-related information for England and Wales, spatial mapping of soils at a variety of scales, as well as corresponding soil property and agro-climatological data. LandIS is the largest soil information system of its kind in Europe, and together with the World Soil Archive (WOSSAC), covers 329 territories worldwide, establishing Cranfield as one of the largest soil reference centres globally.

Data from LandIS was recently used by the Welsh Government to develop its Predictive Agricultural Land Classification (ALC) Map, which enables land users, planners and policy makers to make informed choices about how agricultural land is used in Wales.

Nurturing our nation’s soils

Farming Minister George Eustice said: “Protecting and nurturing our nation’s soils is a cornerstone of our future farming policy. As we work towards delivering our ambitious 25 Year Environment Plan, I look forward to continuing our essential work with Cranfield University.”

Professor Ronald Corstanje, Head of Cranfield University’s Centre for Environmental and Agricultural Informatics, said: “For 40 years, information from LandIS has supported planners, Government and land users to make decisions about how land is used. With an increased focus from Government on the importance of soil health to the UK economy, LandIS will play a vital role in securing the future of the nation’s soil.”

Professor Leon A. Terry, Cranfield University’s Director of Environment and Agrifood, said: “This is fantastic news for Cranfield and the nation’s soil. With our recent Queen’s Anniversary Prize for soil science, and our role in two of the UK’s Government-backed Agritech Centres, Agri-EPI Centre and CHAP, Cranfield is cementing its reputation as the leading soil science university in Europe.”

On his visit to Cranfield, the Minister will also ‘break ground’ on the construction of a new £3.2 million agri-informatics facility which will address a wide range of research challenges in the environmental and agricultural sectors. The facility will be shared with Agri-EPI Centre who will focus on agri-tech research and innovation. It is funded with investment from Innovate UK, Agri-EPI Centre, the Wolfson Foundation and the University itself and will become the home of National Soil Archive.

Source: Cranfield University

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Construction begins on new agri-informatics facility at Cranfield

A ‘ground-breaking’ ceremony has today commemorated the start of construction on a new £3.2 million agri-informatics facility at Cranfield University. The new facility will provide the UK with a centre of excellence in data science related to precision agriculture.

Cranfield University and its partners will use the facility to increase data quantity and quality, while using innovative informatics to support novel business, management and policy approaches in the agricultural sector. It will be shared with Agri-EPI Centre who will focus on agri-tech research and innovation. The new facility will be the home of the National Reference Centre for Soils and associated Land information system, LandIS.

Agri-Informatics funding

Funding for the facility has come from Innovate UK, Agri-EPI Centre, the Wolfson Foundation and the University itself, with construction being completed in 2019.

The ‘ground-breaking’ ceremony was led by George Eustice MP, Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; representatives of Innovate UK and Agri-EPI Centre; and Professor Sir Peter Gregson, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of Cranfield University.

Farming Minister George Eustice, said: “Protecting and nurturing our nation’s soils is a cornerstone of our future farming policy. This new agri-informatics facility will help us develop the science, research and innovation that we need in this area, combined with the lessons that have been passed down through generations.

“As we work towards delivering our ambitious 25 Year Environment Plan, I look forward to continuing our essential work with Cranfield University.”

Professor Sir Peter Gregson, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of Cranfield University, said:

“Cranfield has a proud tradition of making world-leading contributions to the environment and agricultural sectors, recognised earlier this year by the award of our fifth Queen’s Anniversary Prize. This new facility will play a key role in addressing future research challenges and will be an invaluable resource in achieving the goals set out in the Government’s 25-year Environment Plan.”

Ian Cox, Innovation Lead of the Agri-Tech Centres:

“Innovate UK is proud to be a significant funder through the Agri-EPI Centre of this joint facility which is focusing on innovation in agri-tech. This new facility will once completed help address some of the major challenges facing agriculture globally. Soil Health is becoming internationally recognised a key contributor to improving crop productivity and quality so I am especially pleased that the National Reference Centre for Soils will be housed in this new facility.”

David Ross, CEO of Agri-EPI Centre Ltd. said:

“Agri-EPI Centre is the UK lead Centre for Agricultural Innovation across precision and engineering technologies. We are delighted to both contribute, and be actively involved in this new facility. With our partners, this platform will allow us to meet the national and international productivity and sustainability challenges in the agri-food sector.”

 

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Partners

Source: Cranfield University

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Partnership looks to nurture fresh crop growth with Agri-EPI tech

Agri-EPI Centre partner Cranfield University and Johnson Matthey have announced the first cohort of companies to join the Johnson Matthey Agritech Partnership Programme (JMAPP). The announcement follows a five-week global search for companies and individuals who want to develop their innovative agritech solutions. The companies will be given an opportunity to develop their product or idea within an intense programme of collaboration and scientific and management support.

Johnson Matthey Partnership programme

In an innovative new partnership programme, created by Cranfield and Johnson Matthey, more than 35 businesses entered a competitive pitch process to receive a package of advice, support and funding within a new three-month programme. The overall support for the companies will be worth in excess of £50,000 each. From a strong field, three emerging companies were chosen by experts from Cranfield University and Johnson Matthey.

The first companies in the pilot programme are:

  • Azotic Technologies, whose R&D Laboratories are based in Nottingham, is developing a unique natural nitrogen-fixing technology based on a symbiotic endophyte that could allow any crop variety to fix nitrogen directly from the air.
  • Bionema, a company based out of Swansea University’s Institute of Life Science, is working on chemical-free pest management solutions and has devised a non-toxic bio-based microencapsulation technology.
  • Water&Soil, based in Budapest, Hungary, has developed an organic soil enhancement product, which aims to improve water efficiency, whether saving on irrigation costs or enabling cropping in areas of marginal cultivation where water is scarce.

This cohort will enjoy the use of the world-class research facilities located at Cranfield, including those of the UK Government’s Agritech Centres, Agri-EPI and CHAP. The Agritech Centres’ facilities at Cranfield have recently received £10million of investment. A broad package of support – ranging from seminars, masterclasses and networking opportunities through to one-on-one mentoring – will also be on offer.

Along with access to Cranfield and its acclaimed team, Johnson Matthey’s scientists and business experts will now work with the companies to develop their ideas within a Proof of Concept framework. Johnson Matthey has a wealth of commercial and scientific expertise on offer, from research and prototyping support to scaling lab work into full commercial propositions, managing supply chains or help with navigating complex regulatory environments.

“We’re really looking forward to the next few months at Cranfield,” said Kristin Rickert, Innovation Director at Johnson Matthey.

“Johnson Matthey is committed to collaboration as part of our open innovation approach. Our ultimate goal is to help develop fresh ideas into sustainable new products and technologies. This new programme supports that perfectly and these are great ideas to work on together.”

Professor Leon A. Terry, Director of Environment and Agrifood at Cranfield University, added:

“This is an exciting time for innovation in agritech, as demonstrated by the volume, global breadth and strength of the applicants to the programme. One of the greatest challenges for the sector is creating an environment where ideas and innovations can become reality.

By combining the scientific and business expertise of Cranfield and Johnson Matthey, we are giving our first cohort the best possible chance to succeed by bringing forward their innovations to market.”

For more information about the programme visit www.cranfield.ac.uk/jmapp

Source: pressroom Cranfield University

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