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

Project Overview

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

Annual Reports


Not commodity specific


  • Soil Management: soil analysis


    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.


    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.