Farmer Chameli Naraine recently purchased a 100+ acre property near Keene with the desire to obtain an organic farm certification to cultivate different crops.
However, because the farm is so big, what might grow in one area might not grow so well in another.
It is difficult to determine where the soil changes to accurately plant crops. This is a common problem for farmers!
To help solve this problem, Chameli approached the Trent University Environmental and Resource Sciences program to help him craft a sustainable agriculture plan!
Dr. Raul Ponce-Hernandez and a groups of students led the project and helped Chameli find out which crops would grow best where on the property.
Before the students went out into the field, they planned out where soil conditions might change by mapping soil boundaries using aerial maps on geographic information systems technology. Soil boundaries are important as the gradual change in soil content allows for specific land uses. Where organic corn cultivation might be ideal, wheat cultivation may not, simply due to the characteristics of the land.
Drones were also used to map out crop nutrients through precision agriculture! Talk about a cool way to use a drone…!
After the soil boundaries were estimated, Jami and various other students headed out to the farm in October and November (3 of which were wet and snowy!) …And they got right to work.
Jami helped conduct soil assessments using various soil classifications.
She helped “augur” (or dig holes in the ground to determine the soil profile) the soil and a total of 54 sites were sampled to determine the changes of the soil.
Jami helped determine:
- Soil Capability: Distinguishing what the use of the land is limited to (e.g. forestry, agriculture, recreation, and so on)
- Soil Suitability: Distinguishing what the land is best for specific use types (e.g. Wheat grain, irrigated corn, etc.). In this case, Jami helped specify which areas were suitable for planting organic crops.
The result of the project provided the farmer with a classification of each soil boundary. Here are a few examples of what was tested to determine the end result: vegetation, landform, slope, position, and pH of the land. to help show where the optimal places to plant crops are.
This is a great example of a real-world application of student research and it shows how much knowledge and planning goes into growing our crops!!