Developing Digital Tools to Improve Soil Sampling and Analysis for Sustainable Agriculture in the Western U.S

Final Report for EW15-011

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2015: $59,356.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2017
Region: Western
State: New Mexico
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Robert Flynn
New Mexico State University
Expand All

Project Information


The ‘Developing Digital Tools” project was initiated in response to clientele that exhibited an “aha” moment after seeing demonstrations that helped explain concepts in soil science. The trouble, however, with demonstrations is that they can be difficult to set up or the audience has difficulty seeing the demonstration due to size, room dynamics, or logistics.

A series of animations and professional videos were created over a period of months at New Mexico State University’s award winning Media Productions Department to capture some of the many demonstrations already in use across much of the western region. Animations were created to more adequately demonstrate soil properties that cannot be seen directly by the human eye. The products were then shared with selected western region specialists and extension agents and NRCS agronomy and soils personnel. Finally, a YouTube channel was created for the products as well as the “” website so that the products could be easily accessed for viewing. The website was established to help the authors receive feedback from interested parties after watching them online. Live meeting evaluations have been difficult to assess in that there has been a noticeable bias based on what others think when verbally asked the same questions that are on the website. In the future, an alternative method of obtaining evaluation metrics can be developed using iclickers and the iclicker polling app (

The website and an NMSU YouTube channel contains the products created with the funds from WSARE. There are three animations that cover why the Olsen method for soil test phosphorus should be used in most high pH western soils, understanding what the Sodium adsorption Ratio (SAR) is and how its interpretation changes with salinity, and one that describes the unavailability of water in saline soils. Three demonstration were recorded to explain specific soil properties including particle size, the role of gypsum in sodic soils, and what dispersion and flocculation is in context with soil. The latter two demonstrations utilize time-lapse photography to help demonstrate the ultimate goal of utilizing gypsum in a high sodium environment. Five demonstrations describing soil sampling were also created along with four demonstrations on infiltration and runoff and how soil cover helps improve the deleterious aspects of runoff.

At reporting time, 310 hours of YouTube video from the project have been viewed from around the world with the bulk of the hours coming from the US. The authors are confident that the sound, images, and animations are of a superior quality that lend themselves to teaching environments whether they be in the field, barns, conference rooms, or the classroom.

Project Objectives:

Our objective was to develop a series of videos and literature that would help agricultural professionals explain and demonstrate many of the basic concepts that are critical to sustainable agriculture such as saturated paste, salinity, leaching, water holding capacity and others that will help address the long-term issues brought out in a properly executed soil test and interpretation.

Performance Target: High quality and web accessible video and animations that can be used in training and educational events in order to assure better soil test results for proper management decisions.

Distribute links and literature via emails and mail services to western state Extension offices and help spread their availability at regional and national conferences.



Sustainable land and water management practices are vital for sustaining agricultural productivity and regional development (Kahn, 2008). Salt affected soils are a major issue in the arid to semiarid west where irrigation is relied on to help meet food and fiber needs of a growing world. For sustainable agriculture production information on quantitative soil quality, such as salinity, is required for proper planning (Odeh and Onus, 2006). Unfortunately, soil testing methods employed to assess salinity have been modified to increase the sample result turn-around time to the farmer. However, laboratories still offer the more time consuming analyses. NMSU encourages the saturated paste method as it is more accurate at assessing salinity, pH, calcium, magnesium, and sodium. Without the proper testing and resulting management practices farms stand to lose productivity or fail to allocate sufficient resources to those factors that control the sustainability of semi-arid, irrigated agriculture.

NMSU Extension has developed demonstrations that communicate basic principles of soil sampling, determination of salinity, and principles of water movement. We believe these demonstrations to be enlightening to the end user as they make visible what is not readily visible. Many ag professionals such as County Extension Agents, NRCS, and private consultants can be taught these demonstrations to help encourage the adoption of best management practices that are hallmarks to sustainable agricultural activity.


Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Troy Bauder
  • Dr. Barbara Chamberlin
  • Dr. Joan Davenport
  • Dr. Jeanne Gleason
  • Tomilee Turner
  • Dr. April Ulery
  • Dr. Jim Walworth

Education & Outreach Initiatives



Professional animators and artists and voice specialists were employed to create the animations for those soil properties that do not lend themselves to demonstrations. The Olsen Phosphorus test, how salinity affects water uptake by plants, and how the sodium adsorption ratio works in the presence of salts were constructed to communicate key principles of each.

Videos were recorded using professional cameras and microphone hookups to that allowed for excellent sound and video. Multiple still shots were take to augment the final video as well as close up video. Post production took key terms made by the presenters and displayed them at the appropriate time to aid the learning process.

YouTube Analytics were taken and summarized for number of shares, watch time minutes, number of views, how many put the product on their "playlist", made a YouTube Watch Page View, and how many embedded the product in websites and apps.

Additional notes were taken from the website ( where the videos were housed and questions could be answered. These included the following:

Feedback "buttons" have been added to the website so that viewers can give feedback about what they have just watched. These are voluntary, anonymous 15-second responses to four questions:

  1. "After viewing this video, how much has your understanding of 'video title'." Individuals then choose from (0-100% in 25% increments).


  1. "Currently, I consider myself to be a farmer/producer, teacher, professor, student, trainer, or other."
  2. "In what setting are you viewing this video?" Choices are Classroom, Master Gardener Event, Self Study, Training Event, or other.
  3. What other topics would you like to see New Mexico State University videos cover?


Outreach and Publications

In order to spread the "news" of these videos and animations to the western states a bookmark was developed by NMSU Media Productions for dissemination to all county offices.

Additionally, a poster was presented at the 2017 Western Nutrient Management Conference in Reno, NM in early February encouraging attendees to visit the website. Completed products were also highlighted at the ASA meetings in 2016 in an effort to receive feedback. No negative comments have been received.


Outcomes and impacts:

The videos and animations are in an elite class of quality. It has been difficult before this project to find and use multimedia that is concise, easily heard, and clearly seen.

When first distributed for feedback, many colleagues immediately let us know that they would be using them in class. One crop consulting company wanted to be sure to have the videos available for their yearly training.

All the products here have been linked to the Science of Agriculture website (

YouTube Analytics

Gypsum and Sodic Soils. Duration 1:24 minutes




Ave View Time Views Play-listed YouTube WatchView Embedded web/app
Gypsum and Sodic Soils 1:24 4 1:01 321 7 272 49
Water Infiltration 9:09 6 3:32 1,169 16 1,079 90
Unavailability of Water in Saline Soil 2:28 14 1:34 1,050 12 970 80
SAR 2:45 14 1:56 828 13 720 108
Dispersion/ Flocculation 4:11 14 2:33 1,848 21 1,765 83
Effects of Ground Cover 2:32 2 1:22 347 6 311 36
Large Scale Runoff 5:54 2 2:25 199 4 161 38
Why Choose Olsen P? 4:10 4 2:11 489 11 376 113
Soil Particle Size 2:57 2 1:42 330 7 249 81
Prep for Soil Sampling 6:04 8 2:29 191 7 120 71
Shovel/Probe for sampling 4:18 6 2:17 112 4 73 39
Small Field Sampling 3:43 6 1:47 137 6 116 21
Large Field Sampling 3:21 4 1:47 82 4 64 18
Soil Variability Sampling 2:50 7 1:33 91 5 66 25
Saturated Paste 6:47 7 3:08 714 8 709 5
Gypsum and Sodic Soils

 Watch Time Minutes: 151 USA, 46 Australia, 32 India, 11 Pakistan, 10 United Kingdom, 10 Netherlands, 19 other countries

 Put in Play List: 4 in US, 1 in each of Antiqua & Barbuda, Canada, & Vietnam

Water Infiltration

Watch Time Minutes: 151 USA, 46 Australia, 32 India, 11 Pakistan, 10 United Kingdom, 10 Netherlands, 19 other countries

Put in Play List: 8 in US, 2 Pakistan, 1 in each in Canada, UK, Japan, Sri Lanka, Mexico, Philippines

Unavailability of Water in Saline Soil

 Watch Time Minutes:  121 USA, 75 India, 36 Australia, 33 Pakistan, 18 Tunisia, 18 Philippines, 15 Canada, 13 UK

Put in Play List: 3 USA, 2 Pakistan, 1 Australia, 1 Brazil, 1 Canada, 1 UK, 1 Israel, 1 Iraq, 1 Malaysia


 Watch Time Minutes: 517 USA, 257 India, 87 Australia, 79 Canada, 51 Pakistan, 47 South Africa, Israel 39, Mexico 37

Put in Play List: 3 USA, 3 Canada, 2 Pakistan, 1 Egypt, South Korea, Mexico, Netherlands, Uruguay

Dispersion/ Flocculation

 Watch Time Minutes:  568 USA, 224 India, 154 Australia, 70 Canada, 68 UK, 44 Ireland, 36 Pakistan, 33 South Africa

Put in Play List: 11 USA, 2 Australia, 2 Ireland, 1 Brazil Spain UK Greece Mexico Nepal Pakistan Sweden

Effects of Ground Cover

 Watch Time Minutes: 204 USA, 28 India, 18 Australia, 11 Philippines, 7 Canada, 9 UK, 3 Saudi Arabia, 7 Indonesia 

Put in Play List: 3 USA, 1 France, UK, Ireland

Large Scale Runoff

 Watch Time Minutes: 296 USA, 23 India, 20 Turkey, 19 Brazil, 18 Philippines, 18 Australia, 8 Colombia, 6 UK , 6 Thailand

Put in Play List: 3 USA, 1 Australia

Why Choose Olsen P?

 Watch Time Minutes: 259 USA, 53 India, 18 Australia, 15 Canada, 10 New Zealand, 6 Israel, 11 UK, 6 Mexico

Put in Play List: 5 USA, 2 Canada, 2 South Korea, 1 Israel, 1 Mexico

Soil Particle Size

 Watch Time Minutes: views 215 USA, 22 India, 17 Ireland, 15 Canada, 7 UK, 6 Australia, 6 Thailand, 4 South Africa, 2 Brazil

Put in Play List: 5 USA, 1 Canada, 1 Peru

Prep for Soil Sampling

Watch Time Minutes: 131 USA, 7 Malasia, 6 Canada, 4 Columbia, 3 Australia, 3 UD, 3 India, 3 Philippines

Put in Play List: 3 USA, 1 Canada, 1 UK, 1 Israel, 1 Malaysia

Shovel/Probe for sampling

Watch Time Minutes: 73 USA, 6 Canada, 5 India, 3 Columbia, 2 Ethiopia, 3 Philippines, 2 Malaysia, 1 Ireland, 1 Jamaica…

Put in Play List:4 USA, 1 UK

Small Field Sampling

 Watch Time Minutes: 77 USA, 10 India, 5 Philippines, 4 Columbia, 3 Canada, 5 UK, 2 Australia, 3 Hong Kong, 1 Jamaica …

Put in Play List: 5 USA, 1 UK

Large Field Sampling

Watch Time Minutes: 49 USA, 5 Columbia, 3 Australia, 4 India, 2 Thailand, 2 Ethiopia, 1 UK, 1 Jamaica Philippines, …

Put in Play List: 3 USA, 1 UK

Soil Variability Sampling

Watch Time Minutes: 59 USA, 4 Columbia, 4 India, 4 Canada, 2 Australia, 2 Thailand, 1 UK, 1 Jamaica, 2 Philippines, …

Put in Play List: 4 USA, 1 UK, 1 Canada

Saturated Paste

Watch Time Minutes:245 USA, 68 Canada, 69 India, 40 Pakistan, 19 Australia, 13 Columbia, 11 Jordan, 8 Greece, …

Put in Play List: 3 USA, 2 Sudan, 2 Canada, 1 UK, 1 Pakistan



The recent download of analytics from the YouTube site suggested that more visitors have been interested in these products in month of March. This may have been due to the Western Nutrient Management Conference or an artifact of more people sharing what they have seen.

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

The animation and videos can be located at and the NMSU YouTube channel.


Future Recommendations

Ideally, these resources should appear in at least two languages. Future endeavors such as this should evaluate the need for multi-lingual products.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.