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AI sensor will predict when crop needs fertilizer

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Researchers innovated a technology that will help growers to identify the best time to use fertilizer on their crops and how much fertilizer is needed. This technology will also consider weather and the condition of the soil before depicting when the crops need fertilizer. The research paper has been published in Nature Food. This technology will also reduce the expensive and damaging effects of overfertilizing soil. Overfertilized soil releases greenhouse gas nitrous oxide and pollute soil and water.

Overfertilization has destroyed 12 percent of once-arable land worldwide. The use of nitrogen-based fertilizer in agricultural field has been raised by 600 percent in the last 50 years. But it is also difficult for crop growers to understand when to cut off the use of nitrogen-based fertilizer. This at the same time led to environmental damage and money wastage. The researchers said this new technology will help both the environment and crop growers.

The scientists have named the technology as chemically functionalized paper-based electrical gas sensor. This sensor measures levels of ammonium in soil. Ammonium is eventually converted into nitrites and nitrates by soil bacteria. Scientists used artificial intelligence and combined it with weather data, pH and soil conductivity to measure how much nitrogen the soil contains. This will help to predict the optimum time for fertilization.

This study also emphasised upon how low-cost solution will help growers have maximum crops with minimal fertilization, especially wheat. The technology will also reduce environmental harm from nitrogen-based fertilizers.

Imperial College London’s Department of Bioengineering researchers and the lead author of this research paper, Dr. Max Grell has said that overfertilization is a big problem in our current scenario, both environmentally and economically. The profit the growers have by yielding crop is going down with each passing year. The growers also do not have any tool to combat this situation.

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