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Pedometrics in practice: developing decision support for sustainable intensification in small-holder farming systems in East Africa

Last changed: 04 September 2018
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For a number of years our department has had a fruitful collaboration with the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in Kenya. It started with one project and has expanded with additional activities within the subject areas of proximal soil sensing, digital soil mapping and pedometrics.

The aim of the first project was to develop decision support for sustainable intensification in smallholder farming systems in East Africa. That means to provide individual farmers and extension officers with soil information of relevance for their management decisions, such as risk maps for low pH or micronutrient deficiencies.

The same type of data is also needed at regional and national level; fertilizer companies need to know which blend to sell in each county and policy makers need soil data to support decisions e.g. on  subsidies on agricultural lime products. In recent years, the mitigation of climate change and the improvement of soil fertility by sequestering carbon in the soil has become a hot research topic. Authorities and organizations at multiple levels asks for data on how much carbon can be put back into the soil, where the potential sequestration is the largest and by which agricultural practices are most effective for this specific purpose.

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In the SLU-CIAT collaboration we focus on soil information; this includes to develop methods to design soil sampling, evaluate the accuracy of different methods to measure soil properties in situ by proximal sensors and to develop maps and mapping methods as well as online tools to make soil information available to the users. The scale concept is central. Data need to be accurate enough at the operational scale of the decision. A global soil data base may be accurate enough for global modelling and decision making but is of little use at farm level. We evaluate maps at different scales and provide tools for transferring soil data across scales. For example, global soil maps can be locally adapted for use in a small area, like a region or a village. Photo: Mats Söderström.

In short, there is an increasing need for spatial data on soil properties at multiple scales and together with CIAT we work on the pedometric issues related to soil sampling, soil analysis, mapping, evaluation of data products, how to transfer data across spatial scales and how to communicate data to the end users.

Facts:

Pedometrics is a subject area within soil science that deals with the derivation, management, analysis and evaluation soil information. It encompasses the use of statistical (often geostatistics and data mining) and mathematical methods to analyse soil data in various forms, and from various sources. Often, legacy maps and new measurements are combined for inference on soil properties at a point in space and time or across a larger area or over longer period. Related fields are digital soil mapping and proximal soil sensing. The website of the Pedometrics commission of the International Union of Soil Sciences is found at: http://pedometrics.org/

Related pages:

Contact

Kristin Piikki, Researcher
Department of soil and environment, SLU
kristin.piikki@slu.se, +46 511-67222, 

Mats Söderström, External collaboration specialist
Department of Soil and Environment, SLU
mats.soderstrom@slu.se , +46 511-672 44

Page editor: cajsa.lithell@slu.se