SOILAssist: Sustainable protection and improvement of soil functions with intelligent land management strategies – a practical on the fly assistance system for farmers

Project number: 031B1065A

Contact: PD Dr. Joachim Brunotte, Thünen Institute of Agricultural Technology


Project team:  Thünen Institute, Christian-Albrechts-University of Kiel (CAU), German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI), University Osnabrück

Project Homepage:

Duration: 01/02/2022 – 31/01/2025

Project aim 

The SOILAssist project, organized as multidisciplinary, practice and basic principal orientated consortium, focus primarily on the prevention of negative changes in soil structure and functionality by agricultural machineries and the optimization of soil structure and functionality by optimizing field traffic, machinery specifications, management practices and application techniques. 

In the last years and decades the sizes and total weights of agricultural machinery increased more and more. This was primarily for economic and process-efficiency reasons. High specialized machinery requires high operating grades. In adverse conditions, considerable negative changes in soil structure and in multiple soil functions occur. Basically soil functions are affected negatively by intensive agricultural field traffic. Management based negative changes in soil functions still have negative effects on economic and ecological efforts and benefits. For using soils as a sustainable resource for bio-economic purposes (BonaRes), agricultural land use should put a focus on sustainable protection and improvement of soil functions, while keeping the economic conditions in mind. The SOILAssist consortium will put a holistic focus on this area of conflict. 
Expected results 

An on-board assistance system for farmers and agricultural contractors will be developed, applied, and implemented to optimize the soil conserving traffic on agricultural land and to prevent negative changes in soil functions by optimizing machinery configuration, machinery routes on the field, and the overall management. Additionally, models and applications for the analysis of soil compaction intensity, soil compaction risk and soil compaction effects on different spatial scales are developed. Thus, recommendations for farmers, agricultural contractors, agricultural extensionists, and political consultancy are derived and a decision matrix trafficability is established to support decision making of farmers for a foresighted planning of soil conserving agricultural management strategies. Moreover, the socio-economic consequences of different management options will be identified and assessed.


Project results from phase 1

Soil compaction is an important issue in Germany for 75 % of the participating farmers in a survey carried out in the first project phase. To investigate the influence of different agricultural machineries on the soil, a multi-channel measuring device was developed to measure soil pressure and soil deformation simultaneously in different soil depths. A sensor system platform was developed to derive machine and tire related parameters. Furthermore, models were developed in the first phase. Thus, the activity of field traffic, such as wheeling frequencies, can be modelled and with a soil information model the effects of field traffic on soil physical properties can be shown. Furthermore, hot-spot regions for soil compaction risk were identified. Finally, a prototype 1.0 of the on-board assistance system was developed jointly.


Project results from phase 2

(1) Development of an on-board assistance system (OBAS) for implementing soil-conserving field traffic and reducing soil compaction in the running process by optimizing field management.

(2) Development of models and applications to represent and analyze traffic intensity, soil compaction risk, and soil compaction effects at various spatial scales.

(3) Development of the decision matrix trafficability as a decision support for a foresighted planning of soil conservation measures and field operations.

(4) Generation of practical recommendations for agricultural practice and advice.

(5) Assess the socioeconomic drivers of decision-making processes and evaluate the costs and benefits of agricultural technologies and soil conservation measures.


Expected results from phase 3

(1) Further development and implementation of OBAS (prototype 3.0) and the associated adaptive assistance system with (i) adaptation of route planning in the running process, (ii) extension of the recommendations to the machine operator for machine optimization of the soil load and route optimization, e.g. automatic adaptation of tire inflation pressure.

(2) Implementation and integration of the developed models and applications for the representation and analysis of traffic intensity, soil compaction risk and soil compaction effects in a soil compaction information system (SCIS) with (i) model for automatic extraction of field geometries, (ii) assessment of soil compaction risk on regional and national scale, and (iii) influence of soil compaction processes on soil functional parameters.

(3) Implementation of the decision matrix trafficability and implementation in an online tool.

(4) Generation and communication of recommendations through adequate information and educational material as well as events for agricultural practice, vocational training, consulting and for political decision-makers.

(5) Evaluate the economic and non-economic drivers of decision-making processes and consider the region-specific effectiveness of incentives to prevent soil compaction for policy advice.