Soil eNose

Smelling Soil: Novel Electronic Noses for Mobile In-Field Determining of Microbial Health, Function and Resistance

Funding: Soil CRC (Program 2: Soil performance metrics)
Project Partners: FarmLink,University of Tasmania, other farming systems groups (SFS) 
Project Location: FarmLink Region

Background

Healthy soil microbial communities are essential for high performing and resilient soils, however there is currently a lack of rapid in-field testing techniques which can evaluate the status of a soil microbial community. This project aims to develop a prototype ‘eNose’ tool that uses a low cost sensor array to determine changes in the microbial “profile” which can be equated to changes in microbial diversity and activity. This will be achieved by calibrating ‘eNose’ responses of soils with differing levels of soil microbial health to other laboratory based techniques including gas chromatography and biological assay (i.e. DNA sequencing, phospholipid assay and enzyme assay). The development of such a tool could provide real time data permitting both long term monitoring and assessment of management practices (i.e. tilling, fertilisation, irrigation) on soil microbial health.
The role of FarmLink and other farming system groups in this project will be to:
- Host a workshop at the beginning of the project to present and discuss development ideas with farmers to explore the link between management practices, soil performance and microbial diversity/activity
- To provide input to the researchers to ensure development of an easily usable tool that creates decision making value to the farmer
- Host an event at the end of the project to communicate results/outcomes to growers and demonstrate/test the eNose prototype.

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