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Project Isidore Pro Messis: Using Probes to Increase Crop Yield Joe Mylant, Fr. Boniface, Dr. Raab, Kim Lesnock, Daniel Waruszewski, Stephen Racunas Abstract.

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Presentation on theme: "Project Isidore Pro Messis: Using Probes to Increase Crop Yield Joe Mylant, Fr. Boniface, Dr. Raab, Kim Lesnock, Daniel Waruszewski, Stephen Racunas Abstract."— Presentation transcript:

1 Project Isidore Pro Messis: Using Probes to Increase Crop Yield Joe Mylant, Fr. Boniface, Dr. Raab, Kim Lesnock, Daniel Waruszewski, Stephen Racunas Abstract OPTIONAL LOGO HERE Project Isidore Mission Statement How to Obtain a Soil Sample Acknowledgments Soil pH and MoistureThe Probes and Their Uses Further Information World hunger is one of the greatest challenges faced by society in the 21st century. In third world countries people often depend upon sustenance farming in order to survive, but are often plagued with low crop yields. The soil in most places does not lack nutrients, but the problem lies within the pH of the soil. Different crops need different nutrients, and each nutrient has a specific range of pH that it thrives in. However, with today’s technology we are able to produce efficient soil probes that can be used to test soil pH and help increase crop yield. The potential benefits of using probes to test soil were easily observed in our small experiments involving soils with different pH, Vernier probes coupled to OLPC laptops, and a pH probe sold by Lowe’s Garden Center. Soil probes have the potential to not only help the modern farmer, but to also help self-sufficient farmers in poor areas survive and enjoy larger crop yields. Introduction When Project Isidore was first started it had one goal: to help small farmers, especially in third world countries, prosper and survive using technology. In order to achieve that goal it was necessary to research what information and tools modern farmers used in order to produce larger crop yields. One of these tools was a chemical test on soil samples. This procedure is performed at many locations through the United States, one of the largest of these being Penn State University. At Penn State the soil sample is put through several different chemical tests to determine its composition, nutrient levels, pH, moisture levels, and more. This information is then sent back to the farm, along with the appropriate amounts of chemical substances that are needed to bring the soil to optimum levels. This procedure works very well, and almost all farmers are able to increase their crop yields. Neil Palmer, the owner of our test farm in Latrobe, uses this method every year in order to maintain the quality of his soil and crops. However there are no such locations in third world countries, and smaller self-sufficient farmers do not have this luxury, so Project Isidore set out to help these independent farmers use technology to improve there fields. Although soil probes are not as efficient as a chemical test they still allow farmers to perform an accurate and inexpensive reading of their fields, and will help them produce better crops. Project Isidore is a "Grass Roots Science" initiative whose aim is to bring together academic researchers, farmers and young people in the service of providing food security to America and abroad. We seek to support the interchange of agricultural expertise and information by methods that are sustainable in both environmental and human terms, and to mindfully bring the newest of technologies to bear on humanity's oldest challenge: food. In farming, there are many factors of soil quality to take into account. Two of the most important of these factors are soil pH and soil moisture content. Soil pH is extremely important because the pH of the soil determines what nutrients (such as Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium) will thrive in the soil. Each nutrient has its own specific pH range that it will thrive in, which makes it possible to calculate what pH a farmer wants his field to be in order to grow a certain crop. The normal pH range is from 1 to 14, with 1 being extremely acidic, 7 being neutral, and 14 being extremely basic. For soil the normal range is from approximately 3(acidic) to 10.5(alkaline). A pH below 3 is far too acid for any plants to thrive, and a pH of 10.5 is far too alkaline. The majority of all crops will prosper in a pH ranging from 6.5(slightly acidic) to 7.5(slightly alkaline), and the table below illustrates the pH range for several nutrients. There are a few plants that require a soil pH of 4.5 to 5.5. These "acid-loving" plants include azaleas, rhododendrons, and blueberries. In order to make soil more acidic farmers simply add elemental sulfur to the soil, which reacts to lower the pH. This process takes a very long time, sometimes years, so planning is necessary. Most crops however prefer a neutral soil, so the problem is often raising the pH of a field. In order to raise the pH of a field ground limestone containing calcium carbonate should be added. Like the sulfur the calcium carbonate will react with the soil and raise the pH, but a large amount of time is required. Soil naturally become acidic from the decomposition of leaves and other dead plant matter which increase soil acidity as they decompose. Acid rain also causes acidic soil. Places with large deposits of limestone tend to have alkaline soil because the rain decomposes the limestone, which in turn reacts with the soil. To change soil pH takes large quantities of time, because of the reactions needed to affect soil pH. Because of this soil pH is often very consistent. Soil moisture is less complex then pH, but is still nonetheless important. Soil moisture is defined as the amount of water that is held in the spaces between soil particles. Moisture is important for farmers because all crops need water to survive. Lack of water will result in a low soil moisture reading, meaning the field needs irrigation. The opposite is also a problem - if a field has too much moisture the plants will become oversaturated and will become unhealthy. AcidNeutralAlkaline 4 4.55 5.56 6.57 7.58 8.59 9.510.5 nitrogennitrogen, N phosphor usphosphor us, P potassiu mpotassiu m, K calciumcalcium, Ca magnesiu mmagnesiu m, Mg sulphursulphur, S ironiron, Fe mangane semangane se, Mn boronboron, B coppercopper, Cu zinczinc, Zn molybde nummolybde num, Mo The above table gives a guide to the availability of several nutrients at various pH values. Vernier PH-BTA The pH Sensor is a Ag-AgCl combination electrode with a range of 0 to 14 pH units. It is compatible with the OLPC software. This probe is used to measure the pH level of a soil sample. First mix the soil with distilled water to make a 1:1 soil to water ratio mixture. Then insert the probe into the solution and allow it to sit for a few minutes. The software on the computer will monitor and display the pH readings, and when the reading remains steady that is the pH of the solution. Vernier SMS-BTA The Soil Moisture Sensor probe uses capacitance to measure the water content of soil. It measures the loss of soil moisture over time due to evaporation and plant uptake. It is also compatible with the OLPC software. To use this probe simply insert the sensor into the soil to be tested and the volumetric water content of soil is reported in percent on the computer. Results of Farming With Probes Mosser Lee Soil Master: Moisture, Light & pH Meter This meter was donated by Lowe’s Home and Garden Center as an addition means for measuring pH and moisture. To measure the pH simple prepare a soil sample, and insert the probe into the soil. Wait 60 seconds then record the reading from the probe. To perform the moisture reading take the same steps described above, but turn the switch to moisture. This probe does not use batteries and is not compatible with the OLPC software. The best way to ensure a proper soil sample of a field is to take samples from random areas of the field in even amounts. This means that researchers should try to obtain soil from all over the field, not just one area. Also at least 4-6 inches of soil should be obtained to get accurate results. A soil sampling tool is shown to the right. Using these probes not only allows the farmer to track his or her fields conditions, but also supplies a relatively inexpensive way for self- sufficient farmers to increase their crop yield. Most of the Vernier probes are very user friendly and compatible with the OLPC laptops,. These laptops are currently being shipped to many third world countries for use in educational programs for children, and so could also be used to improve farming in these places. Using these probes and performing Kim Lesnock’s experiment (see Kim’s poster) it is very easy to see the impact that these simple probes could have on self- sufficient farming. If a system could be established whereby the farmer would take measurements once a month using these probes, and adjusting their fields accordingly the result is not only increases crop quantity, but also increased quality, creating a better lifestyle for small family farms. Top left shows Father Boniface taking a soil sample, right is a proper depth soil sample, and bottom left is a soil sample probe. Palmer’s Farm where we took samples. An example of random field sampling. Taking samples again.Father Boniface taking more samples. Mixing the soil & water for testing.pH testing the soil sample http://Grass-roots-science.info/Project_Isidore Support provided through Saint Vincent College by: Army Biotechnology Center, under contract No. NMA401-02-09-2002, through the Johns Hopkins University/APL subcontract No. 904856


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