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

Project number: 031B0684A-D

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: 01/08/2015 – 31/01/2022

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 

To hit this targets, an ‘on the fly’- 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 etc. and the overall management. 

 Additionally, recommendations and recommended actions for farmers, agricultural contractors, agricultural extensionists and political consultancy and an advisory system will be 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.


Expected results from phase 2

In the second project phase of SOILAssist the prototype 1.0 of the on-board assistance system will be further developed. With the new project partner University of Osnabrück a 3D environment representation will be integrated to obtain a much more complex system (prototype 2.0). Furthermore, attention will be paid to regionalization. With satellite, UAV and laser scanning data, a region-wide and field-specific prediction of the regional soil compaction risk will be made possible. A further field of research will be the regeneration of soil compaction, which will be investigated using an innovative approach to reduce soil compaction by greening the headland.