We speak to Russell Lawley, geoanalytical scientist for the British Geological Survey, about new and future UK Soil Observatory (UKSO) developments and how both farmers and agronomists can benefit from this digital soil data.
What is UKSO?
UK government have invested in soil research over many decades. UKSO is a free-to-view service which makes this previous investment of our national datasets more readily available to the public. This means that everyone can benefit from our research and understand more about soils (particularly in areas that they may not be familiar with).
What’s new for 2019?
The website has been refreshed to make it more user friendly and many additional and revised maps of soil and landscape data have been added.
How can farmers use this new data?
The map viewer allows farmers to access over 180 national datasets about soils and landscape. The viewer works on a range of devices including smartphones and the same free-to-view services use a common data-format and so can also be imported into several farm-software packages.
What’s the benefit of UKSO to farmers?
The map viewer enables farmers to confirm what they already know about their land, but also possibly discover new information from the decades of scientific research that underpins the data. The map viewer is particularly useful for farmers looking to invest in new land, take on contractor work in a new area, or when considering alternative options for land use, soil-management or planning soil sampling.
How about agronomists?
The UKSO map viewer contains a wealth of data about soils and landscape; the free-to-view data comes from 11 environmental research organisations and provides excellent baseline information to help any agronomist establish basic facts about their current territory or new areas they may be expanding into. The data are particularly suited to help devising farm surveys for soil type, chemistry and function.
What’s the vision behind UKSO?
Ultimately, we want to encourage more agronomists and farmers to share data to increase our understanding of UK soils. Using digital data has never been easier, and the growth of agri-technology in the UK makes this a sensible time to promote the existence and availability of data from research centres. Over the next few years, more data will come online, at ever increasing resolution, we are keen to engage with all stakeholders so that they get the most value out of what is now available.