14th June 2013

A new soil carbon app for Scottish farmers

A free, new soil carbon app was launched today (June 14th 2013) to provide farmers with a quick, cost-effective source of information about the organic matter content of their soil.

The app, known as SOCiT (Soil Organic Carbon information), provides information that can help farmers, and others, make better management decisions as a result of improved understanding about the condition and fertility of their soil.

The James Hutton Institute, in partnership with Quality Meat Scotland, has produced the app for iPhone and iPad – and it is available for download from the Apple App Store.

The free app is aimed at farmers, land managers and other land users who want to know how much carbon is in their soil, helping them determine fertility and appropriate use.

Matt Aitkenhead, soil scientist at the James Hutton Institute, said: “Carbon storage in soils is recognised as one of the best strategies for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and mitigating the effects of climate change.

“For farmers to be able to manage their land in a way that increases soil carbon capture and long-term storage they need to be able to monitor soil organic matter content rapidly and cost-effectively.

“This new app provides an alternative to expensive and time-consuming sampling and chemical analysis and can be used in the field without the need for soil science expertise or training.”

The app uses information about the user’s position to access existing digital maps of environmental characteristics, such as elevation, climate and geology. Combining this information with data extracted automatically from a photograph of the soil of interest, it uses a sophisticated model to predict topsoil organic matter and carbon content.

The James Hutton Institute holds a huge amount of data on Scotland’s soils and landscape, acquired over many years. This data has been used to develop the model underlying the app, meaning users do not need to have detailed environmental knowledge of their location.

“The app is user-friendly and contains detailed instructions, enabling the user to get an estimate of soil carbon content within minutes. All that is needed is an iPhone, a colour correction card (available upon request from the James Hutton Institute) and a spade to obtain an estimate of topsoil organic matter content within approximately five minutes,” added Dr Aitkenhead.

Caption: Dr Matt Aitkenhead demonstrates the new soil carbon app on a Perthshire farm.

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