College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

CNDE’s Thomas Chiou awarded patent for soil nitrate sensing system

Thomas Chiou, associate scientist at the Center for Nondestructive Evaluation, has been awarded a patent titled “Soil nitrate sensing system for precision management of nitrogen fertilizer applications.”

According to the patent abstract the invention is “an apparatus, method, and system for on-the-go soil nitrate level sensing, and optionally using the sensing to inform or instruct nitrogen fertilizer application across the field. In one form, the apparatus includes a soil sensing tool which carries a diamond ATR cell in combination with an FTIR field ruggedized spectrometer. The optical surface of the diamond ATR cell can be adjusted in pitch and depth to the soil. A processor is programmed to manipulate acquired spectra to derive a prediction of nitrate level for a given soil position in the field. This can be used to modulate a fertilizer applicator operation or coupled with georeference data collected simultaneously to generate a map of soil nitrate levels for the field, which can be used as a prescription for nitrogen fertilizer application.”

Co-inventors listed on the patent are David Laird, professor emeritus of agronomy, and Natalia Rogovska (M.S. ’04, PhD ’06 soil science).