Poor soil health is recognized as a major cause of decline in agricultural productivity in sub-Saharan Africa. Decision making on soil nutrient management is, however, a complicated process with many risks and rewards. Developing low cost tools for measurement of soil nutrient is important for increasing smallholder farm productivity and improved management of natural resources through reliable measurement of soils, plants and agro inputs.
The World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF) and its partners developed soil-plant spectral diagnostics tools for rapid and low-cost analysis of soil properties and plant nutrients using only light based methods (visible, near-infrared, x- rays and laser technology). This technology has the ability to rapidly predict soils’ physical, chemical and biological properties. The technology also now allows soil and plant analyses to be done at many georeferenced sites in a country. The high density of data permits digital mapping of soil properties and crop nutritional constraints, among other important applications such as soil carbon monitoring and soil mineralogical determination. Current application of the technology includes Africa Soil Information Service (AfSIS) Phase II and GeonutritionA, projects lead by ICRAF.