A smartphone application SoilWeb, developed by the UC Davis California Soil Resource Lab, is providing people in the field with up-to-date information about soil. Whether you are a farmer, a researcher, an engineer, an ecologist, a gardener or you are simply curious about this ubiquitous yet underrated resource called soil, upon which all human life depends, then this app is for you.
Some of the information provided includes for example: soil classification, chemical composition, suitability for various uses as well as erosion rates. The app relies on data produced by the National Cooperative Soil Survey and while it can only currently relay US soil data, the potential of a similar app in other parts of the world is huge.
Climatic and ecosystem conditions, geomorphology, chemical composition of soils, land use changes, the type of crops being cultivated are all elements that affect the health and fertility of soils and can, for example, seriously challenge the long-term sustainability of farm activities.
A technology that provides up-to-date information about the state of soils can empower farmers to make informed land management decisions that support soil conservation, promoting farm sustainability and farmers’ livelihoods in the process.
As the International Year of Soils unfolds, and with a Global Soil Week conference currently in full swing in Berlin, the importance of soils is being brought to the fore. The hope is that enough momentum will be generated to encourage governments to direct greater resources towards research and development of accessible, sustainable and long-term solutions that can ultimately support soils and support us.
It may be “literally and metaphorically beneath us”- as Monbiot commented – but soil still matters in the digital world.