Scientists at UW-Madison this summer are testing a device that senses soil nutrients, which could help farmers make better decisions when fertilizing.

The sensor technology created by engineers at the university can be used for real-time monitoring of nitrates in soil, which are essential for growing crops. But excess nitrate can move from soil into groundwater, where it can pose a threat to human health and the environment.

Joseph Andrews, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering who led the research, says these sensors can help farmers “make more precise decisions” on how much fertilizer they need by showing them the nutrient makeup of their own soil. They can help monitor nitrate leaching and guide efforts for reducing that process.

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