New mobile phone applications are helping farmers and land managers balance productivity with conservation, according to a Jan. 25 announcement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (ARS).
Known as the "Land-Potential Knowledge System" (LandPKS), the suite of apps identifies and delivers information about specific soils to anyone with a mobile phone, according to Jeff Herrick, an USDA soil scientist with the ARS Jornada Experimental Range in Las Cruces, N.M.
LandPKS, which includes the LandInfo and LandCover modules, combines cloud computing, digital soil-mapping data and a global positioning system (GPS) to provide information about the sustainable potential of land under the current and future climate, Herrick added.
Herrick and his collaborators developed LandPKS because of the unique challenges today's producers and land managers face in feeding a world population of 7 billion people while also protecting soil, water and other natural resources.
According to ARS, the current version of the LandInfo module allows the user to collect soil and site-specific topographic data, while the LandCover module can document ground cover, vegetation height, plant density and spatial patterns of vegetation affecting soil erosion.
The collected information is stored in a centralized, open-access database and becomes part of a data system that, in the future, will identify management options for sites having similar topography, soil and climatic conditions, Herrick said.
Herrick is part of an international team that developed, tested and released the apps as part of a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Agency for International Development.