New dataset opens Estonian soil information for versatile use

February 16, 2021

A comprehensive database of Estonian soils and a map application has been completed in cooperation with researchers of the University of Tartu and the Estonian University of Life Sciences. The database makes Estonian soil information easily accessible and can be used from local farm-scale to national-level big data statistical analysis and machine-learning models.

"Soil data is possibly the most undervalued and yet complicated type of environmental data there is. The diversity of organic, chemical, living and dead materials that make up a handful of dirt is astounding," said Alexander Kmoch, Research Fellow in Geoinformatics at the University of Tartu and the leading author of the study.

Estonia has had very detailed soil information available for decades. It is digitally available on the Geoportal of the Estonian Land Board in several formats under a permissive open data license. Its main purposes include land evaluation and assessing potential for agricultural use.

Unfortunately, it was not easy to make much use of the data so far. One of the reasons that limited the wider use of the soil map was the way the data was structured in the database. "For each soil unit, a series of complicated text codes and numbers describe very specialized soil type and soil texture, organic layer, rock content, and the potential for agricultural use. Only few experts can interpret that on a field-by-field basis, but it was close to impossible to derive large-scale actionable insights," said Kmoch.

Researchers of the University of Tartu and the Estonian University of Life Sciences have undertaken the mammoth project of deciphering that information and providing it in an easily readable table-based form, with all the bits and pieces extracted into numbers and categories that are much easier to analyze and use in a variety of use cases.

The new dataset is called EstSoil-EH, the Estonian soil dataset with ecological and hydrological variables all derived from the original soil map of Estonia. In addition, the new dataset is enriched with area and percentage information on six simple land-use types: arable, grassland, forest, wetland, urban/buildup and water. One can also find topographical variables like slope per each distinct soil unit.

Furthermore, machine learning was used to complement the new dataset with the soil organic carbon estimates. This way it opens Estonian soil information to many new specialized use cases from digital agriculture support to forest management, environmental assessments, biodiversity restoration, eco-tourism and much more.

"Countries like Lithuania and Latvia may have similar historical soil records from the Soviet era that could be turned into value-added datasets by using the same methodology," said Kmoch.
A scientific peer-reviewed article describing the data processing and validation in detail was published in the journal Earth System Science Data.

Explore the soil of Estonia interactively:

The new EstSoil-EH dataset is available as open data:

Estonian Research Council

Related Agricultural Articles from Brightsurf:

Researchers map genomes of agricultural monsters
The University of Cincinnati is unlocking the genomes of creepy agricultural pests like screwworms that feast on livestock from the inside out and thrips that transmit viruses to plants.

Genomes published for major agricultural weeds
Representing some of the most troublesome agricultural weeds, waterhemp, smooth pigweed, and Palmer amaranth impact crop production systems across the US and elsewhere with ripple effects felt by economies worldwide.

Tennessee agricultural sectors taking a hit from COVID-19
The latest research from the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture indicates that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected all aspects of agricultural commodity production and distribution, leading to substantial price declines and reduced income for farmers.

Agricultural pickers in US to see unsafely hot workdays double by 2050
Temperature increases by 2050 and 2100 in U.S. counties where crops are grown will double, then triple the number of unsafe workdays.

Digital agriculture paves the road to agricultural sustainability
In a study published in Nature Sustainability, researchers outline how to develop a more sustainable land management system through data collection and stakeholder buy-in.

Significant potential demonstrated by digital agricultural advice
2019 Economics Nobel Laureate co-publishes paper demonstrating the potential for digital agricultural advice to 'sustainably' raise 'agricultural productivity' at low cost for 2 billion smallholder farming families.

Sustaining roads with grape and agricultural waste
The US spends $5 billion a year to repair damages to road infrastructure from winter snow and ice control operations and the use of traditional deicers.

New report says accelerating global agricultural productivity growth is critical
The 2019 Global Agricultural Productivity Report, released today by Virginia Tech's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, shows agricultural productivity growth -- increasing output of crops and livestock with existing or fewer inputs -- is growing globally at an average annual rate of 1.63%.

The benefits of updating agricultural drainage infrastructure
The massive underground infrastructure that allows farmers to cultivate crops on much of the world's most productive land has outlived its design life and should be updated, according to a new study.

The next agricultural revolution is here
By using modern gene-editing technologies to learn key insights about past agricultural revolutions, two plant scientists are suggesting that the next agricultural revolution could be at hand.

Read More: Agricultural News and Agricultural Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to