The Sustainable Agriculture session at the International DDD Conference (November 2023, Sede Boqer campus) examined how thought paradigms once unique to deserts and drylands affect food production and regenerative agriculture in arid and non-arid regions across the planet.
Simon Futerman, a PhD student from Newe Ya’ar gave a talk on the use of remote sensing for cover crops monitoring – as a part of his PhD under the supervision of Dr. Yael Laor (Newe Ya’ar), Dr .Yafit Cohen (Volcani Institute) and Dr. Gil Eshel (Soil Conservation Division, Ministry of Agriculture).
Quantifying spatial variability of soil nutrients is of great importance as it has a direct effect on crop production and environmental pollution. Remote sensing (RS) is a promising tool to gather high spatial resolution information regarding nutrient availability. Cover crops (CC) are incorporated into the crop rotation in order to provide ecosystem services and are often sown in the winter, prior to sowing the cash crop, rather than leaving a bare soil. The benefits of sowing CC include, among others, reducing soil erosion; weed suppression; uptake of nutrients prone to leach, such as nitrate; and N2 fixation when using legumes. We propose a novel approach suggesting that the practice of mixtures of cover crops, together with RS, may reflect the spatial variation in soil nutrient availability. This concept was examined in a study in the Model Farm for Sustainable Agriculture in Neve Ya’ar, Northern Israel. The study had two main goals: (i) inspecting and measuring CC nutrient uptake and biomass based on visual symptoms of nutrient deficiencies, and (ii) using RS, with a UAV equipped with an RGB camera, to classify CC into groups of interest and use the information to generate high-resolution spatial nutrient uptake information aimed at guiding basal fertilizer applications for the following cash crop. In addition to the case study, we suggest, and will briefly present, approaches of using RS of CC to detect two major essential macronutrients: nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P).