Soil Health & Soil Heritage

Introducing the Collaboration

Why this work?

Managing agricultural land sustainably requires an understanding of how environmental processes, cultivation practices, past human activities, soil biomes, soil technical properties, weather and climate interact. Given the breadth of expertise needed to develop integrated approaches to agricultural land management, practitioners and researchers working in this area benefit from collaborations between disciplines and across organisations.

The ‘Soil Health & Soil Heritage’ collaborative project aims to build links between groups exploring how soils in farmed landscapes are qualified, studied, modelled, and valued from different perspectives: agricultural, environmental, and archaeological. It focuses on data created through remote and near-surface sensing technologies to provide an impetus for cross-disciplinary conversations, because these data have the potential to serve as a shared resource for research and management. The project team worked to identify shared research and management priorities related to soil health and soil heritage in agricultural landscapes, to evaluate the capability of commercial and experimental sensors to provide data to address these shared priorities, and to identify barriers to the creation of interoperable remote and near-surface sensing data resources on soils and their role in agricultural systems.

This project is led by a group of researchers at the University of Glasgow, working on initiatives including agri-environment sensing projects in CENSIS, the Global Soil Heath network, and the ipaast-czo project on archaeological remote and near-surface sensing.


Identifying Priorities

The core project group, representing researchers in environment, archaeology, agriculture, and sensor development worked over three days in Spring 2022 to identify and rank shared priorities for the collection of remote and near surface sensing data, considering a broad range of mapping and monitoring applications related to the management of agricultural landscapes. For each thematic application area, the ability to assess and monitor specific soil and related environmental properties was considered.

Instrument Review

The group reviewed a range of instruments and assessed their capacity to produce data relevant for mapping and monitoring applications identified as high or medium-high cross-domain priorities. This exercise provided an overview of obstacles to producing useful data and identified high potential instruments.

Full details on the instrument review will be available soon.

Contributors: Eamonn Baldwin, Ying Zheng, Awais Asiz Shah, Analito Michala, Rachael Wakefield, Rachel Opitz


Workshop 1: Dalswinton Estate Field Visit

22 March 2022

Bankhead Farm, Dalswinton Estate and Dalswinton Village Hall, near Dumfries

A field visit to the Dalswinton Estate near Dumfries provided the focus for a discussion of the challenges of creating and using interoperable remote and near-surface sensing data on agricultural soils with a wider community of researchers and practitioners from across the UK.

A full report on the field visit and outcomes of this workshop will be available soon.


Workshop 2: Enriching Scotland’s soils data – sensing, modelling and interoperability 

24 May 2022

Kelvin Hall, University of Glasgow

Workshop Themes

  • Improving soil data in agricultural areas to enable environmentally sustainable land management practices
  • Diversifying sources of data on soil, soil biomes, and crops, with an emphasis on remote and near surface sensing
  • Breaking down data, methods and knowledge silos between agricultural, environmental and cultural and natural heritage domains
  • Assessing data requirements for agri-environmental monitoring and management, and overlaps with cultural and natural heritage monitoring and management requirements
  • Addressing problems introduced by data patchiness (irregular coverage spatially and temporally) and biases in distributions, which prevent scaling up of predictions and models
  • Building the case for soil data as essential to sustainable rural communities
  • Good practice for sensor and data acquisition and management protocols for natural environment scaled deployments
  • Understanding soil data marketplace models

Workshop Programme

Time Activity
09:30 Welcome
 Talks (speakers)Talks (titles)
10:00Rachel Opitz (Archaeology, University of Glasgow)Enriching Scotland’s soils data –
sensing, modelling and interoperability
10:10Malcolm Coull (James Hutton Institute)How do you solve a problem like soil data?
10:30John Holland (SRUC)Establishing a LoRa sensor network at SRUC Kirkton Farm – monitoring the environment and livestock.
10:45Elisa Ramil Brick (Heriot-Watt University)Gaps in research in precision agriculture, precision livestock farming and agroforestry and the need for a new area of research in “Data-Driven Agroforestry”.
11:00Marian Scott (Mathematics and Statistics, University of Glasgow)Data fusion in space and time.
11:15Rachael Wakefield (CENSIS)Wireless coms options for connected devices in remote areas.
11:30Ciara Keating (School of Engineering and Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health & Comparative Medicine, University of Glasgow) Umer Ijaz (School of Engineering, University of Glasgow) and Barbara Mable (Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health & Comparative Medicine, University of Glasgow)Impacts of agricultural practices on soil communities associated with potatoes.
11:45John Crawford (Adam Smith Business School, University of Glasgow)The science of delivering soil health at scale.
12:00-13:00lunch break  
13:00-13:15quick explanation of themes
13:15-14:00thematic group discussions 1
14:00-14:15swap groups (and top up your tea and coffee)      
14:15-15:00thematic group discussions 2
15:00-16:15thematic groups report back
16:15-17:00closing roundtable discussion