Ben-Gurion University (BGU) scientists have developed a new nitrate sensor to provide real-time and continuous measurement in soil.
According to the scientists, this could lead to better detection of water pollution as well as measure conditions for higher agricultural productivity.
Natural nitrate levels in groundwater are generally very low. However, excess application of fertilizers in agriculture often results in leaching of nitrate from the soil to water resources.
Increased levels of nitrate in water on the other hand is one of the main reasons why it is undrinkable, thereby causing a worldwide environmental problem.
BGU’s new optical nitrate sensor is based on absorption spectroscopy.
According to the scientists, it enables continuous, real-time measurement of nitrate and can detect nitrate concentrations in the range of tens to hundreds of parts per million (ppm), which is the range relevant to growing crops.
Its ability to continuously monitor soil nitrate levels produces a highly detailed portrayal of the rapidly changing concentrations of nitrate in the soil solution.
The new sensor which was jointly developed by professors Ofer Dahan and Shlomi Arnon along with PhD student Elad Yeshno, is also highly resistant to harsh chemical and physical soil conditions.
“Current methods for measuring soil nitrate are cumbersome, labor-intensive and do not provide real-time indication on the actual concentration of nutrients in the soil,” notes Dahan.
“Our invention, which enables real-time monitoring of soil nitrate levels, can supply farmers with valuable data on the amount of nutrient availability for crops,” contends Arnon.
“It also optimizes fertilizer application, thus preventing over-fertilization, economizes irrigation and reduces water resources pollution.”
Image and content: Pixabay/Ben-Gurion University via Eurekalert