SOILAssist in the new issue of the BonaRes newsletter

The newsletter is about the problem of soil compaction and about new strategies and technologies developed in SOILAssist to provide farmers with practical recommendations for action so that they can manage soil-conserving.

Two exciting interviews with practitioners and videos of our measurement campaigns can also be found in the newsletter.

Click here for the BonaRes newsletter

SOILAssist project mananger Joachim Brunotte as an expert at the presentation of the discussion paper "Agricultural Strategy 2035" in Berlin

Presentation of the "Intelligent Wheel" at the press conference of Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture Julia Klöckner

SoilAssist project manager Joachim Brunotte from the Thuenen Institute of Agricultural Technology was invited to Berlin as an expert to present the discussion paper "Agricultural Strategy 2035". At the press conference of the Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture Julia Klöckner on December 19, 2019 he had the opportunity to present the "Intelligent Wheel" exhibit at the trade fair. The tire with the SoilAssist sensor system was developed in cooperation between our project and the companies Grasdorf Rad, Steyr and TerraCare.

Soil has an important role in the discussion paper "Agricultural Strategy 2035". As a basis for production, every effort must be made to maintain or improve soil fertility and thus soil functions. Against this background, the prevention of soil erosion during extreme weather events and precautions against soil compaction play a major role.

In order to use large and heavy agricultural machinery in a soil-conserving way, vehicle parameters must be adapted to the current susceptibility of the soil to compaction. Joachim Brunotte used the "Intelligent Wheel" to demonstrate ultrasonic sensors which help to measure tire deflection and thus permit maximum tire deflection in order to support the wheel loads on the largest possible tire contact area. This leads to a reduction in the soil pressure and thus to soil protection and its important functions.

Click here for the video...

The discussion paper "Agricultural strategy 2035" also included findings from extensive field trials on practical plots from various projects at the Thuenen Institute of Agricultural Technology. The agricultural strategy is divided into 6 guidelines and 12 fields of action. They serve as a framework for a sustainable orientation of arable farming:

1. Ensure the supply of food, feed and biogenic raw materials

2. Securing agricultural income

3. Strengthening environmental and resource protection

4. Strengthening biodiversity in the agricultural landscape

5. Extending the contribution to climate protection and adapting agriculture to climate change

6. Increase social acceptance of arable farming

Agritechnica - Semantic environmental representation for arable farming processes

SOILAssist partners Uni Osnabrück and DFKI at Agritechnica, hall 21, stand A05

Farming is knowledge-intensively. Knowledge about the process, the field, the machines, the crop, the weather and everything else traditionally lies in the mind of the farmer, who today also uses information systems, machine and satellite data as sources of information and means of documentation. Common farm information systems aggregate data about space and time. However, the functions for automatic knowledge-based inference from existing information are often limited, as are the machines involved in the process, because there is no explicit representation of the existing knowledge.

Our work in SoilAssist aims at using AI-methods for knowledge representation and interpretation of sensory data, process data and geographical data to fill this gap and to make automated conclusions and explanations available at the knowledge level in arable farming processes. In this way we develop new technologies, concepts and software solutions that contribute to improving efficiency, sustainability and yield in agriculture.

The system used in SoilAssist to record high-dimensional 3D point clouds will be presented at Agritechnica on the stand of the Lower Saxony Ministry of Science and Culture (hall 21, stand A05).

VIDEO - Laserscanning for 3D point cloud imaging

Agritechnica - New development from SoilAssist

Intelligent Wheel

The fully automatic control pressure system

At this year's Agritechnica the new developments in SOILAssist will also be presented together with the cooperating companies. Two identical models of a tire with the SOILAssist sensor system will be presented at the stand of the partner Grasdorf-Rad (hall 20, stand B08) and at the GKB-Thünen stand (hall 12, stand A14). The tires are open at the side for better visibility so that you can look inside the tire. The models explain how the system works.

The SOILAssist sensor system is still integrated in a Steyr tractor, which can be found at the stand of our partner Steyr (hall 3, stand A49). A video specially produced for Agritechnica shows how the system works on the tractor.

The system, developed in cooperation between SOILAssist, the tire and wheel specialist Grasdorf, the tractor manufacturer Steyr and the manufacturer of tire pressure control systems TerraCare, can automatically adjust the internal tire pressure to the existing driving conditions. For the first time, the advantages of a control pressure system can be fully exploited by fully automatic control without the need for manual intervention by the driver.

The partner Steyr developed a patented wireless capacitive energy transmission and wireless data transmission. With this intelligent system, the traction of the tire can be optimized, fuel consumption, tire wear and soil pressure minimized and tire damage prevented. Parameters such as wheel load, temperature, inflationl pressure etc. are also recorded. In connection with the complete integration into the existing vehicle information system, a multitude of further data can be accessed, resulting in additional application possibilities, such as fully automatic and calibration-free yield recording.

The exhibits can still be seen on the exhibition stands of the participating partners until 11/16/2019.

Press release

Bat technology helps protect the soil

Thünen Institute of Agricultural Technology at Agritechnica 2019

The Thünen Institute of Agricultural Technology will be represented at this year's Agritechnica, the world's largest trade fair for agricultural technology, from 10 to 16 November 2019 in Hanover. On a joint stand with the Gesellschaft für konservierende Bodenbearbeitung e.V. (Society for Conservative Soil Treatment) (GKB), possible solutions and techniques will be presented within the framework of the lead topic "Global Farming - Local Responsibility" in addition to the problems of soil compaction by agricultural field traffic. The necessity of hygiene measures on the field is also a topic.

Scientists in the SOILAssist project, use ultrasound - a technique that bats also use for orientation - to detect changes in tractor tires during field traffic at a resolution of 1/100 mm. This is used to dynamically determine changes in wheel loads and soil pressure under each tire while driving. Special measurements in the soil show whether field traffic lead to soil damage, with effects on the soil structure, plant growth, soil water balance or soil fauna. All the information flows together in a real-time assistance system on the machine. From this, situation-dependent recommendations are given to the driver. He can then adapt his machine to the current soil conditions, for example by changing the tire inflation pressure while driving, thus contributing to sustainable soil protection. At the Thünen-GKB fair stand, the cross-section of a tire with built-in sensors and a model for measuring soil deformation can be seen. Visitors will then be able to simulate the crossing with a tractor tire on the soil and see what happens in the tire and in the soil underneath.

Scientists from the Thünen Institute of Agricultural Technology are also presenting a bonitur scheme for corn stubble as a component for "Good Technical Practice" in field hygiene and soil cultivation. A holistic view of the work processes from cultivation to harvesting is necessary to justify the effective and profitable use of mulchers. Corn stubble must be completely shredded and frayed in order to deprive the larvae of the corn borer, the most important insect pest in corn, of their habitat and to accelerate rotting. The Bonitur scheme helps to assess in detail the framework conditions and the results of the work of the technology used. Visitors can test their knowledge on a monitor in a quiz.

All interested parties are invited to visit the Thünen-GKB fair stand in hall 12 at stand 12A14. Agritechnica with more than 2500 exhibitors from over 50 countries takes place every two years in Hanover. The organizer is the German Agricultural Society (DLG).

SOILAssist at the DKG in Kiel September 2019

Every 2 years the "German Congress for Geography" (DKG) takes place. With more than 2,000 participants from all sub-disciplines of geography, the Day of School Geography and the Day of Applied Geography, the DKG is an important event for the interdisciplinary exchange of all spatially working sciences.

At the DKG 2019 in Kiel, the SOILAssist team was well represented with its own session, several lectures and posters as well as an excursion.

Soil degradation and sustainable soil protection in agricultural landscapes
(M. Kuhwald und B. Steinhoff-Knopp)

Implementation of compacted lane areas in process-based soil erosion models
(P. Saggau, M. Kuhwald und R. Duttmann)

Traffic intensity and risk of soil compaction of agricultural machinery - A multi-year analysis in Adenstedt, Lower Saxony
(K. Augustin, M. Kuhwald und R. Duttmann)

Regional days of trafficability of arable land - factors influencing the adaptation of agricultural machinery to the susceptibility of soil compaction
(M. Lorenz, S. Ledermüller und J. Brunotte)

Soil compaction risk as an interaction of natural and socio-economic factors (S. Ledermüller und M. Lorenz)

SOILAssist – Sustainable protection and improvement of soil functions with intelligent land management strategies – an on-board assistance system for farmers
(M. Lorenz und M. Siekmann)

The influence of agricultural land use on the soils and landscape structure of the Schleswig-Holstein Young Moraine Landscape
(P. Saggau und M. Kuhwald)

Silage corn harvest September 2019

On the SOILAssist study fields in Adenstedt, the silage corn harvest took place on 09/24/2019. Due to the drought this summer, the soil condition was very solid and load-bearing. A deformation measurement was therefore only possible at one depth. A maize chopper, tractors with silage trailers, a tractor with mulcher and a loading mouse at the edge of the field to overload the chopped material onto waiting transport vehicles were involved in the harvest. The advantage of this choice of technology is the low tire inflation pressure of the machines, which is soil conserving, as they only drive on the field and not on the road.

In order to be able to estimate the yield both in the inner field and in the headlands, we carried out a hand harvest before the harvest.

This year we also used a drone to film the harvest chain and the wheeling experiments.

The videos of the harvest, the overloading at the edge of the field with the loading mouse and the wheeling experiment can be found below.

SOILAssist at the DBG joint annual conference in Bern August 2019

SOILAssist was represented at the joint annual conference of the German Soil Science Society and the Swiss Soil Science Society in Bern.


Effects of high wheel loads and multiple wheeling during silage maize harvest on soil structure and soil functions - comparison of two extreme years (M. Siekmann, M. Lorenz, J. Brunotte)

Latest publication August 2019

P. Saggau, M. Kuhwald, and R. Duttmann

Integrating Soil Compaction Impacts of Tramlines Into Soil Erosion Modelling: A Field-Scale Approach

Soil Systems 2019, 3(3), 51

Airborne measurements on our study sites

In order to investigate the effects of soil compaction on biomass and yield, we also use a drone for airborne measurements in SOILAssist.

With the dji M210 drone, multi-spectral images are taken that provide information about biomass and yield. The third phase of the measurements on our study sites Adenstedt and Hohenschulen was successfully completed.

SOILAssist at the EGU 2019 in Vienna

Again the SOILAssist team was represented at the EGU 2019 in Vienna.


Rush hour on arable soils - A spatial analysis of three-year traffic intensity on arable land. (K. Augustin, M. Kuhwald and R. Duttmann)

Soil degradation by soil compaction: a new integrative modelling approach. (M. Kuhwald, K. Augustin and R. Duttmann)

Status quo soil sampling greened headlands March 2019

In the second phase of SOILAssist we also focus on the regeneration of soil compaction. The headlands, in particular, often show soil structure damages and soil compaction because the turning of the machines, often with lifted attachments, causes a large mechanical load input. The result of such damage to the soil structure and the various soil functions, for example, is a lower yield compared to the core field.

In this context, we have set up a multi-year trial on one of our study fields in Adenstedt, in which one part of the headland is covered with clover grass. In future, the turning of the machines will take place on the greened part of the headland. The idea behind this is to relieve the "normal" headland. The vegetation with clover grass increases the stability of the soil. The planted part is able to better support the loads of the machines. In order to be able to make a statement about an improvement of the soil structure in the normal headland, employees of the CAU and the Thünen Institute of Agricultural Technology jointly carried out a status quo soil sampling of the normal and the greened headland in advance. In the soil physics laboratories, the samples are examined with regard to their structure and functions. At the end of the experiment, the entire headland will be examined again in order to make statements about the regeneration of the soil in terms of structure and functions.

Fermentation residue application March 2019

At this year's fermentation residue application on 27 and 28 March 2019 for silage corn, we examined four different technology variants with regard to their influence on soil pressure and deformation as well as soil function changes.

  • Tractor with tridem slurry tank (without incorporation)
  • Tractor with tandem slurry tank (without incorporation)
  • Self-propelled slurry tank with crab steering function and slurry injector with cutter
  • Tractor with umbilical cord slurry spreading

The focus of this year's investigations was on the comparison of tandem and tridem slurry tanks. While the tandem slurry tank often has higher wheel loads, the soil is only wheeled four times (tractor and tandem slurry tank each with two axles). In a tridem slurry tank, the weight is distributed over three axles so that the wheel load is reduced. Here, however, the soil is wheeled five times in a row. In order to evaluate the influence of the different machines on the soil, it is not only the wheel load that is decisive. The number of wheel crossings is also a decisive factor. 

BonaRes Statusseminar Leipzig February 2019

SOILAssist was represented at the BonaRes Status Seminar (02/18/2019 - 02/20/2019) with the lecture "Towards a semantically grounded on-board assistance system for ensuring soil protection during harvest" by Joachim Hertzberg (Osnabrück), two poster elevator pitches, and ten posters.

Doctorate Dr. Michael Kuhwald February 2019

Our colleague Michael Kuhwald (CAU Kiel) has successfully completed his doctorate. We congratulate him very much!

"Detection and modelling of soil compaction of arable soils: From field survey to regional risk assessment"

Latest publication January 2019

Augustin, K., Kuhwald, M., Brunotte, J. and Duttmann, R.

FiTraM: A model for automated spatial analyses of wheel load, soil stress and wheel pass frequency at field scale

Biosystems Engineering, 180, 108-120

SOILAssist at the SSSA 2019 in San Diego

SOILAssist was represented at the Soil Science Society of America conference "Soils Across Latitudes International Soils Meeting" (01/06/2019 - 01/09/2019) in San Diego, USA.

Contribution: M. Lorenz, M. Siekmann and J. Brunotte: Liquid manure application in spring – effects of different application techniques on soil properties

SOILAssist kick-off meeting December 2018

The kick-off meeting for the second project phase of SOILAssist took place from 12/10/2018-12/12/2018 in Kiel.

On this occasion, we also visited our new test site "Hohenschulen" near Kiel.

Bachelor Thesis October 2018

Elsbe von der Lancken has successfully finished her bachelor thesis in the SOILAssist project.

"Effects of the technical development of sugar beet harvesters on soil-physical parameters"

Sugar beet harvest October 2018

The sugar beet harvest with the Grimme Rexor 630 took place on 10/25/2018. This year, the focus of our investigations was on the use of tire measuring boxes. It is not sufficient to know the static wheel load (determined with mobile scales) of the machine in order to be able to assess the influence of the machine on the tire/soil interface. During a field crossing, the wheel load varies considerably, depending on slip and slope inclination, for example.

The tire measuring boxes were integrated in all six rims of the beet harvester. With the ultrasonic sensors installed into the rims, the tire deflection during the sugar beet harvest could be continuously recorded. By intersecting the values from the measuring boxes with the GPS signal from the RTK-GPS on the machine, the dynamic wheel load during the harvest can be determined precisely on the field.

Start 2nd project phase October 2018

After successful evaluation SOILAssist starts into the second project phase.

We are looking forward to another three years of exciting research!

SOILAssist at the ISTRO 2018 in Paris

SOILAssist was represented at the 21st ISTRO conference (09/24/2018-09/27/2018) in Paris.

Contributions: M. Lorenz, K. Augustin, K. Nolting and J. Brunotte: Dynamic Changes of Wheel Load and Mean Contact Area Pressure during Sugar Beet Harvest and Soil Tillage, Proceedings of the 21th ISTRO International Conference, 24-27 September, Paris, France, pp. 201-202.

I. Martínez, M. Stettler, M. Lorenz, J. Brunotte, P. Weisskopf and T. Keller: Changes in Subsoil Pore System and Anisotropy Caused by Agricultural Machinary Traffic, Proceedings of the 21th ISTRO International Conference, 24-27 September, Paris, France, pp. 12-13.

Silage corn harvest September 2018

Weather and soil conditions remained dry during silage corn harvest on 09/11/2018. From July to September we only had 112 mm of precipitation on our study site fields. The soil condition was accordingly very solid and therefore load-bearing. Due to the extreme dryness, soil sampling was not possible, as the soil sampling rings could not be driven into the soil. The measurement of soil pressure and deformation was only possible at a depth of 20 cm. In the run-up, we carried out a hand harvest of silage corn.

For the first time, our newly developed tire measuring boxes were used during the entire harvest campaign.

Latest publication august 2018

M. Kuhwald, K. Dörnhöfer, N. Oppelt, and R. Duttmann

Spatially Explicit Soil Compaction Risk Assessment of Arable Soils at Regional Scale: The SaSCiA-Model

Sustainability 2018, 10(5), 1618

Latest publication august 2018

S. Ledermüller, M. Lorenz, J. Brunotte, and N. Fröba

A Multi-Data Approach for Spatial Risk Assessment of Topsoil Compaction on Arable Sites

Sustainability 2018, 10(8), 2915

High rainfall in harvest months in 2017 and a long period of drought in 2018 affect wheat yield

The combination of high rainfall in autumn 2017 and the resulting unfavorable soil conditions while silage corn and sugar beet harvest campaigns as well as the long period of drought in many regions in spring/summer 2018 caused a strong impairment of root growth in cereals. This has led to a considerable decline in yields.

A total precipitation of 173 mm on our study site in Adenstedt (Lower Saxony, Germany) in the main harvest months of September and October 2017 left a fast-closing window for a soil conserving field traffic during silage corn and sugar beet harvest campaign. In addition, when cultivating the succeeding crop, usually wheat, an unfavorable soil structure prevailed partially. In July and August 2017, a total of 334 mm of precipitation fell at our study site, which resulted in very wet soil conditions before harvest. The average for July and August is expected to be 160 mm. From July to October, the rainfall was 507 mm, which makes up more than 60% of the annual precipitation at our study site. On average, the amount of rainfall for this period is 294 mm. The result was very wet soil and thus vulnerable to compaction during the main harvest period.

Especially high wheel loads in combination with an increased number of wheel crossings can lead to negative effects on soil structure and the various soil functions under wet soil conditions. The harvest chain of silage corn has wheel loads of 7-8 t in combination with up to 8 repetitions of wheel crossings. Sugar beet harvesters with crab steering function can reduce the number of wheel crossings to 1 on a large part of the field. As a bunker machine, however, wheel loads of 10-12 t are attained.

Furthermore, the very dry spring and summer had a considerable influence on the wheat yields, which partly reached only 60-70 % of the typical yield. In the period from May to July 2018, only 100 mm precipitation was recorded at our test site. This is only 46 % of the average precipitation (217 mm) for this period.

Against this background, SOILAssist scientists have investigated case studies in the region of Ambergau (Hildesheim) in which maize or sugar beet harvesting and winter wheat cultivation took place spatially close to each other under favorable or unfavorable conditions. For this purpose, the wheat was harvested by hand in several random samples (1 m2 each) per variant and then the large-area harvest was carried out with the combine harvester.

The harvest results in combination with the respective cultivation data will show the effects of mechanical loads at different sensitive soil conditions on plant development and economic excellence of different process chains. Based on this, conclusions and recommendations for a future optimization or excellence of different management options depending on the prevailing weather conditions and processes will be derived.



Workshop soil conserving field traffic

From 19th to 20th of June 2018 a joint workshop of SOILAssist and Grimme took place in Damme. The topic was ‘soil conserving field traffic’ during the sugar beet and potato harvest.

In addition to the technical lectures, a field demonstration of the soil pressure and soil deformation measuring device was demonstrated to the approx. 35 participants using a potato harvester. Furthermore, Joachim Brunotte demonstrated the ‘simple soil structure assessment for the farmer’ by means of a small profile pit.

To illustrate the topic, 'information materials on soil', such as various soil profile banners and a walk-on soil map of Lower Saxony, were made available by the LBEG in Hanover.

By including soil protection aspects as well as the requirements and possibilities of agricultural technology, future strategies for a soil conserving field traffic were debated and discussed.

We would like to thank all participants for the active exchange!

SOILAssist workshop 'field trials' may 2018

The project partners Thünen Institute for Agricultural Technology and CAU Kiel met in Kiel from 17th to 18th of May 2018 for a workshop on 'field trials'. We discussed the results of the field trials from 2016 and 2017 and the planned upcoming field trials for the harvest season 2018.

SOILAssist at the EGU April 2018

SOILAssist was represented at this year's conference of the European Geoscience Union (EGU) 2018 in Vienna.

Contribution: Liquid manure application in spring - are soil conserving measures available? (M. Siekmann, M. Lorenz, K. Nolting, B. Ortmeier and J. Brunotte)

SOILAssist workshop 'modeling and assistance system' march 2018

From 27th to 28th of March 2018 SOILAssist met for a workshop 'modeling and on-board assistance system' at the DFKI in Osnabrück. We discussed the status of our modeling concepts and their integration into the on-board assistance system and pushed ahead with the planning of further work.

SOILAssist at the BonaRes conference february 2018

SOILAssist was represented with 7 presentations and 7 poster presentations at the BonaRes Conference 2018 in Berlin. Under the following link 'Soil in the focus of researchers' you will find an interesting article about the conference and the contribution of SOILAssist.

SOILAssist project meeting february 2018

Our SOILAssist project meeting took place on the 14th to 15th of February 2018 in the Lüneburger Heide in Hermannsburg. We exchanged information about the status of our work as well as previous results and discussed the upcoming work until the end of the 1st project phase and the future work in the 2nd project phase was defined and planned.

Workshop 'amendment of the fertilizer ordiance and soil protection - a new field of conflict?' december 2017

Between optimized fertilization and soil protection - actors discuss soil pressure and slurry application


Thünen Institute and Lower Saxony Chamber of Agriculture hold workshop on 'Amendment to fertilizer ordinance and soil protection - A new field of conflict?'

In December, about 20 farmers, representatives of machinery rings/contracting companies and agricultural consultants discussed with employees of the Thünen Institute and representatives of the Lower Saxony Chamber of Agriculture the challenges and possible solutions for the implementation of the amendment to the Fertilizer Ordinance against the background of soil conserving cultivation. One of the aims of the amendment of the Fertilizer Ordinance (DüV) is to reduce emissions of fertilizer application to the air as well as to groundwater and surface waters. New regulations on the vesting period and on the limitation of application quantities will result in a postponement of the application quantities of farm manure until spring. The application of farm manure is associated with high wheel loads on the soil as a result of field traffic with large slurry tanks. In spring, the soils usually still have high water contents until March and are therefore very vulnerable to compaction. The new fertilizer ordinance will help to improve air and water protection. However, it can exacerbate the conflicts between optimized fertilization and soil protection.

The workshop took place as part of our SOILAssist research project and was jointly organized by the Thünen Institute and the Lower Saxony Chamber of Agriculture. The workshop demonstrated high importance and challenge of soil protection in fertilizer application. The greatest challenge is the shorter application window and the quantity restrictions. Technical solutions are required that allow soil conserving cultivation with the same performance. Above all, the additional financial burden, the availability of technology, for example for contractors, and the technical possibilities for slurry processing were critically discussed. The results of the workshop will be incorporated into further project work.

We would like to thank all participants for the active exchange and support.

Sugar beet harvest October 2017

On 30th of October 2017 the sugar beet harvest took place on our study fields.

The aim of this campaign was on the one hand to test how the available machine data from the ISOBUS can be used in the on-board assistance system later. The test was carried out under real conditions. Relevant data are e.g. GPS coordinates, driving speed, fuel consumption, information on the digging unit, etc. The reading out of specific machine parameters is especially important with regard to the on-board assistance system to be developed in SOILAssist. On the other hand, a calibration of an installed sensor in the REXOR 630 by Grimme was performed under real conditions. This sensor measures the increase of the volume of sugar beet in the bunker during harvest. The bunker weight can be determined by calibration with the current bulk density of the beets. The REXOR was weighed several times with a full bunker using portable scales. In addition, volumetric beet samples of approx. 1 m³ were taken with a cage to determine the current bulk density. This increases the accuracy of the sensor.

Together with the RTK GPS, the sensor can then be used to determine the axle and wheel loads at any point in the field and thus determine the different mechanical soil loads in the field during harvesting. To realize an exact traffic monitoring, the operating conditions of the machine, e.g. harvest condition and unloading of sugar beets at the clamp in the headlands etc. were documented during harvest.

Silage corn harvest September 2017

This year's silage corn harvest took place on the 13th of October 2017 on the SOILAssist study fields, after the harvest had to be shifted due to very rainy weather the week before. Compared to the extremely dry last year 2016, the silage corn harvest this year took place at significantly higher soil moisture conditions.

This year, we not only took photos, but also made videos of the silage corn harvest, overloading and the wheeling experiment.

The harvest chain consisted of the chopper (FR 550) provided by New Holland, our test tractor (New Holland T7), a push-off trailer (Fliegl Gigant ASW 268) provided by Fliegl Agrartechnik GmbH and a tractor (New Holland M160) with mulcher (Agrimaster). The push-off trailer with overloading screw enables overloading of the chopped material directly at the edge of the field onto waiting trucks. This means that the tire inflation pressure can be significantly lowered compared to road driving, resulting in a more soil conserving field traffic under wet soil conditions.

To estimate the yield before the harvest, a hand harvest was carried out in advance. The SOILAssist scientists performed three different wheeling experiments during the silage corn harvest. First, the soil pressure and soil deformation of the entire harvest chain were measured. The chopper, the tractor with the push-off trailer and the tractor with the mulcher crossed the measuring point one by one. Subsequently, separate wheeling experiments were done in which the chopper and the tractor with push-off trailer were examined individually. Before and after the wheeling experiment, undisturbed soil samples were taken in order to determine not only soil pressure and deformation but also the influence of the field traffic on the soil structure and soil functions. In addition to the wheeling experiments, measurements were carried out with the penetrologger to measure the penetration resistance of the soil. Furthermore, the contact areas of the tires of the different agricultural machines were determined. Portable scales were used to determine the weight and wheel load of the individual machines, which is relevant for the experiments.

Tender for a master thesis in the project SOILAssist at the Thünen Institute for Rural Studies

Status Quo investigation on techniques and tools to avoid soil compaction in agriculture by junior employee (technical soil protection)

Contact: Dr. Johanna Fick (johanna.fick@  thuenen.  de)

SOILAssist at the German Soil Science Society September 2017

In September 2017 scientists from SOILAssist participated in the conference of the German Soil Science Society in Göttingen.

Contribution: Development of a spatio-temporal soil information model for the drivability analysis of arable land (M. Kuhwald, K. Augustin, R. Duttmann)

Winter wheat harvest August 2017

Once again, this year, the SOILAssist study fields were used for extensive wheeling experiments and field trials during the winter wheat harvest. Even before the harvest, the scientists carried out a hand harvest of the wheat on various plots in the field and took soil samples from plots that are unwheeled.

The colleagues at the Christian-Albrechts-Universität in Kiel examined the impact in terms of cumulative traffic effects on the basis of the traffic movements of recent years. Different load classes on the field were calculated with the help of the field traffic model. The scientists tracked the plots with RTK-GPS and marked them on site. Together with colleagues from the Thünen Institute in Braunschweig, a targeted sampling of the soil was then carried out at different depths in order to subsequently examine it for soil physics.

Colleagues from the Thünen Institute of Agricultural Technology in Braunschweig carried out wheeling experiments with a New Holland TX 63 combine harvester. With the help of RTK-GPS tracking during wheat harvesting, it was possible to calculate that the combine harvester performs an average of two wheel crossings (one pass, two axles) in the core field and an average of eight wheel crossings (four passes) in the headlands. These two variants were imitated with the TX 63 with a full grain tank and soil pressure and deformation measured during the wheel crossing. The subsequent soil sampling was used for soil physical analysis in the laboratory.

In addition to the field tests, the scientists also recorded parameters such as the weight of the combine harvester, the tire contact areas, the track depth and the penetration resistance of the soil.

Latest publication August 2017

Kuhwald, M., Blaschek, M., Brunotte, J. and Duttmann, R. (2017)

Comparing soil physical properties from continuous conventional tillage with long-term reduced tillage affected by one-time inversion.

Soil Use and Management, DOI: 10.1111/sum.12372.

SOILAssist at the Wageningen Soil Conference August 2017

SOILAssist participated in the Wageningen Soil Conference 2017 from August 27th to 31st on the campus in Ede-Wageningen. The biennial Soil Conference at Wageningen University & Research (WUR) was held this year under the motto Soil Science in a Changing World. One of the six main topics focused on Governance and Policy.

Governance & Policy was an important topic at the Wageningen Soil Conference. After keynote speeches by Annette Schneegans (European Commission, DG AGRI) and Simon Moolenaar (Commonland Foundation), BonaRes SOILAssist opened the governance session with a speech by Kirstin Marx (Soil Unit of the Thünen Institute) and Marco Lorenz (Thünen Institute for Agricultural Technology) on SOILAssist - Assisting Farmers to reach the SDG Goals 12 and 1.

SOILAssist at the Pedometrics June 2017

In June 2017 scientists from SOILAssist took part in the Pedometrics in Wageningen.

Contribution: Development of a stakeholder-oriented communication strategy for raising acceptance of soil protection measures (K. Marx, J. Fick)

Drawing of winners May 2017

Among all participants of the survey on technical soil protection, 10 winners were drawn. They will either receive a copy of the'Simple Soil Structure Assessment for the Fatmer' or a new spade.

We thank everyone who took part in the survey and supported us!

SOILAssist at the EGU April 2017


In April the scientists of SOILAssist were participating in the conference of the European Geoscience Union (EGU) in Vienna with 3 contributions in different sessions.

Contributions: An application to model traffic intensity of agricultural machinery at field scale (K. Augustin, M. Kuhwald, R. Duttmann)

The effects of one-time inversion tillage on soil physical properties after long-term reduced tillage (M. Kuhwald, K. Augustin, R. Duttmann)

Effects of different agricultural management on a stagnic Luvisol in Lower Saxony, Germany – Factors for sustainable soil protection (M. Lorenz, M. Siekmann, J. Brunotte, B. Ortmeier)



Fermentation Residue Application March 2017

On our SOILAssist study fields, extensive measurements on different manure and fermentation residue application techniques for silage corn were carried out from the 14th to the 17th of March 2017. The aim of these investigations was to examine the influence of different application techniques on soil structure and changes in soil functions. Especially in spring, when liquid manure is applied and will be increasingly used due to changes in the fertilizer ordinance, the soils often show a higher soil moisture value, which is critical for soil compaction. The choice of technology and the correspondingly adapted machine parameters are crucial to ensure that the field traffic is as gentle on the soil as possible. The investigated technology variations represent the range of slurry application in practice:

  • Tractor with tandem slurry tank (without incorporation)
  • Self-propelled slurry tank with crab steering function and slurry injector with cutter
  • Tractor with umbilical cord slurry spreading

To ensure clean soil sampling, no fermentation residues were applied during the measurements. The self-propelled slurry tank and the tractor with tandem slurry tank were driven over the measuring point with a full tank but without spreading the fermentation residues; so was the tractor with the umbilical cord slurry spreading as well.

The final fertilization of the field was carried out with the umbilical cord slurry spreading technique before sowing of silage corn.

Experience exchange in Australia January 2017


In January, the SOILAssist project was presented at the University of Southern Queensland (Toowoomba). Purpose of the trip to Australia were exchange of experiences and networking on topics of soil erosion and soil compaction. Contact person on the Australian side was Dr. Christian Roth from the CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization) in Brisbane.

Our project leader Dr. Joachim Brunotte (Thünen Institute of Agricultural Technology in Braunschweig) was especially interested in obtaining an overview of CTF systems (Controlled Traffic Farming) in Australian crop rotations and their applicability to European conditions. This included a visit to the University of Southern Queensland in Toowoomba and a round trip to practical farms in the region to study the special application situations on site.

At the university Dr. Brunotte presented our concept "Adaptation of Load Input by Agricultural Machines to the Susceptibility of Soil to Compaction" to the Australian colleagues (Dr. Jeff Tullberg, Dr. John Bennet, Dr. John Rochecoueste, Erik Schmidt) to reduce soil compaction. Mr. Brunotte's presentation was titled "Paddocks under pressure - adaption of machinery use to the compaction sensitivity of arable soils" and outlined essential contents of SOILAssist.



Harvest campaigns 2016

Silage corn harvest September 2016

On the 27th of September 2016 the silage corn harvest was carried out on one of the SOILAssist test fields in Adenstedt.

The harvest involved the experimental tractor (New Holland T7.270), a New Holland corn chopper (FR550 Forage Cruiser) and a multi-purpose trailer with conveyor (Joskin Drakkar 7600). Furthermore, a self-propelled cleaner loader (Ropa Nawaro bunker mouse system Palandt) for overloading at the edge of the field was used by contractor J.-H. Deike and trucks for transport to the biogas plant. The subsequent mulching of the corn stubble was done with a tractor (New Holland M160), equipped with a front and side mounted mulcher (Agrimaster and Müthing).

During the silage corn harvest, the wheel crossing tests concentrated on determining soil pressure and deformation. A profile pit was required to set up the measuring point. The sensors were installed at three different depths using a mounting frame. Then the harvest chain crossed the prepared measuring point. To be able to examine the influence of the field traffic on the soil functions, soil samples was taken before the harvest in an unwheeled condition. The soil was then sampled after crossing of the entire machines of the harvest chain. The undisturbed soil samples were examined in the soil physical laboratory.

With the help of portable scales at the edge of the field, the exact weight of the machines used for harvest could be determined. In addition to other parameters such as tire inflation pressure or the number of wheel crossings, knowledge of the weight or wheel load is important for the experiments and for the evaluation of the influence of the various machines on the soil. The soil pressure and deformation measurements show us directly the effects of the current traffic on the soil. The investigations of the soil samples in the laboratory subsequently provide us with information on whether conductivity functions for water and air were influenced by field traffic and whether any damage occurred. This enables us to evaluate different mechanical loading situations when driving on arable land more effectively and to derive appropriate recommendations.

Sugar beet harvest October 2016

The sugar beet harvest in the SOILAssist project took place on the 24th of October 2016 in Adenstedt.

The self-propelled sugar beet harvester provided by machine cooperative Ambergau was a REXOR 630. It was a 6-row harvester with 3 axles and a bunker volume of 30 tons. It was adjusted by Grimme for the wheeling experiments of SOILAssist, e.g. by installing a measuring system for determining the bunker filling level and integrating corresponding software for recording the values and other machine data.

The experiments were carried out with full and half full bunker filling. The soil was sampled in the unwheeled condition before harvest and in the wheeled condition after harvest. In addition to soil sampling, infiltration experiments were also carried out. Since the sugar beets are stored in the headlands as a rent, the harvester repeatedly drives along the rent to empty the loader. This puts a heavy load on the soil in the headlands (high wheel load combined with high wheel crossing frequency). To investigate these effects, soil samples were also taken in the headlands before and after harvesting.

To determine the wheel loads of the sugar beet harvester with full and half-full bunker for the wheel crossing experiments, portable scales were used at the edge of the field and the loads for each wheel were determined axle by axle. The wheel contact area was also measured, which is another important parameter in addition to the tire inflation pressure and wheel load. For this purpose, the tires of the three axles had to be marked and sprayed from all sides with chalk powder. The resulting tire imprint could then be drawn on a plastic foil. The complete contact area of the tire including the lug contact area is thereby determined.

The investigation of soil pressure and soil deformation as well as undisturbed soil samples in combination with the recording of the respective traffic situation and the corresponding position on the field (RTK-GPS) also permits a spatial allocation of soil loads and load hot spots during harvesting. In addition, the observation of a field over several years allows statements to be made about the soil loads of an entire crop rotation or different crop sequences. Therefore, in SOILAssist we work on several fields at the same time to be able to examine each crop in each year on the one hand and to map the entire crop rotation of a field on the other hand as well as to measure the accumulation of the loads over time.

SOILAssist project meeting in Adenstedt in September 2016

From 8th to 9th of September the SOILAssist project team, representatives of the BonaRes Centre and the project management Jülich as well as company representatives of Grimme came together. The meeting took place at the test site in Adenstedt. In addition to the lectures and discussions, a visit to the study fields was also part of the program. The participants presented their work in the project and exchanged information about the current status and future tasks.

On the first day, the project partners gave an overview of the on-board assistance system, the sensor system and the planning system as well as in spatial modelling. A live demo of a prototype of the planning system with Graphical User Interface was demonstrated. In the afternoon a visit of study fields of the project was on the agenda. Thereby the weather station especially built for the project was presented and the functionality of the individual devices was explained. The soil conditions of the test site were elucidated with the help of a soil profile pit and a soil profile characterization was performed. During a field demonstration of the functionality of a subsoiler, the advantages and disadvantages of subsoiling regarding soil compaction processes were discussed. This also included the excavation of a small pit on which the simple soil structure assessment for the farmer was introduced. On a New Holland test tractor, a first version of the sensor system in the tire and its integration into the on-board assistance system could be presented on a tablet in the tractor cabin.

On the second day the project partners presented the socio-economic evaluation of the project as well as the acceptance and implementation of soil protection measures. Furthermore, the representatives of the BonaRes Centre presented their main tasks of cross-project coordination. In addition, models and tools will be developed that describe the influence of land use measures on the soil system. Furthermore, the data center, which comprises data management and the consolidation of data from soil research into a central database for soil sciences, as well as a portal as a web-based interface for knowledge, information and services, are part of their work. In addition to the subsequent discussion of the upcoming field trials this year, the final discussion on the core questions and topics of the project provided important suggestions for the project team.

BonaRes status seminar Leipzig

On the 14th and 15th of November 2016, the status seminar of the BMBF funding initiative "soils as a sustainable resource for the bioeconomy" took place in Leipzig. The SOILAssist team was involved along with nine other project networks and presented the project and its initial results.

[Translate to English:] Plant 2030/BonaRes Statusseminar Potsdam

From the 14th to the 16th of March 2016 the PLANT 2030 Status Seminar took place in Potsdam. SOILAssist participated as a project of the BMBF's funding program. In addition to a poster presentation, the SOILAssist team presented its project.