Tel Aviv University’s Department of Geography has invented a “soil dipstick” that takes the temperature of Planet Earth and forecasts the health of forests and farms, according to department Prof. Eyal Ben-Dor. “Through a small hole in the surface of the earth, we can assess what lies beneath it" by using the Optical Soil Dipstick, he explained.
Prof. Ben-Dor said the diagnostic device measures the health of the soil. The new instrument, already in use in California, can tell geographers which parts of the world are best for farming and can also be used to catch polluters of the environment.
Current soil testing procedures require bulldozers and cost millions of dollars, but an Israeli-designed dipstick will cost only about $10,000 for each application. The dipstick currently is in a prototype stage and might be available for commercial use within a year.
The thin catheter-like device gives real-time, immediately accurate and reliable information on pollution and the all-round health of the soil. Analyzing chemical and physical properties, the dipstick outputs its data to a hand-held device or computer.
Prof. Ben-Dor said the device can help farmers pursue “precision agriculture” by allowing them to know if their crops are getting the right blend of minerals. The dipstick also can be remotely and wirelessly networked to airplanes and satellites.
"Soil mapping is a national undertaking," Prof. Ben-Dor observes. "It takes years and millions of dollars' worth of manual labor and laboratory analysis, not to mention exhausting headaches with government authorities and ministries. For a fraction of that energy and money, and with a staff that has minimal training, the Optical Soil Dipstick could do the same job, and could continue doing it on a yearly, monthly, and possibly even a daily basis. The headaches would be gone, and we would finally get an accurate picture of the earth's crust in these environmentally critical years."