Towards the latter part of October 2017, i had the pleasure of, with my colleague Budiman Minasny, to conduct an intensive digital soil mapping training course in Korea for scientists in the Rural Development Agency. Also on this whirlwind trip, i attended at the Korean Soil and Fertiliser Conference. Here i delivered a keynote talk about soil carbon mapping in Australia. My colleagues, Budiman and Dominique Arrourays and Darren Kidd also presented keynotes at the conference- “Technology and Prospects of Digital Soil Mapping”.

Digital Soil Mapping training

group photos
Figure 1. Attendees of the intensive digital soil mapping training workshop at RDA headquarters in Jeonju, Korea.

Together with Budiman, we conducted a 2-day digital soil mapping training at the Rural Development Agency (RDA) Headquarters in Jeonju, Korea, 17-18 October 2017. The training was part of the research collaboration between the Korean National Institute of Agricultural Sciences (NAS) and the University of Sydney. It was also supported by the Australia Korea Foundation.

Largely following the curriculum detailed in our digital soil mapping book, attendees (whom were all RDA scientists) became knowledgeable about R for general data science work, and then acquainted with how to use R within GIS and soil mapping workflows. The workshop consisted of the nuts and bolts of digital soil mapping from preparing data, raster covariates, fitting a model and generating soil maps. For most of the attendees, this was their first time using the R software, but enthusiasm was high and we expect to see a flurry of DSM products coming out of Korea soon.

While RDA Korea already has a sophisticated soil information system, the workshop aimed to equip staff and scientists with generic suite of skills that underpin digital soil mapping. The workshop was opened by Dr Suk Yong Hong, chief of the Soil Survey Division at RDA, and attended by 20 staff.

Figure 2. Dr Suk Yong Hong opening the workshop. And a few action shots of teaching.

With the little downtime we had in Jeonju, we managed to have a lot around the RDA site. This was a huge complex with much land dedicated to cropping activities and trial plots. Rice and cabbage appear to be the major crops. We had a look around at their Lysimeter experiments. These things amaze me because of their scale, and the type of data that can be obtained from them. Seeing the ET reference plots reminded me that there is actual data that contribute to all the models we use. We also managed to visit the robotics lab in the engineering section of the site. This was quite interesting seeing some of their automated machinery for going up and down the rows of rice fields.

Figure 3. Some sites around RDA headquarters Jeonju, Korea. ET0 reference site in one of the lysimeters. Erosion plots for estimating the crop effect in erosion models. Friend and colleague Dr. Chang Hoon Lee showing me his glasshouse experiment with cabbage, and looking at growth differences with differing organic amendments.

Korean Soil and Fertiliser conference

The second part of our trip to Korea was to attend the annual Korean Soil and Fertilizer Conference, 19. Oct. 2017 in Chung Ju (University of Chungbuk). This event was coordinated by The NAS (National Agricultural Sciences) and titled “Technology and Prospects of Digital Soil Mapping”. The conference was opened by the president of NAS highlighting the challenge of soil mapping and agriculture in Korea. This is followed by a ceremony and award presentation for young soil scientists who will be representing the country at the global soil judging contest to be held in Brazil in 2018.

After the ceremonial procedures, the international session kicked off with four keynote talks:

  • Dr Dominique Arrouays presented on GlobalSoilMap and soil monitoring in France.
  • Prof. Budiman Minasny presented on digital soil morphometrics and its place in modern soil science practice
  • Dr Darren Kidd presented work on enterprise suitability assessments In Tasmania
  • I presented about some soil carbon mapping efforts in Australia.

I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of giving a keynote talk. It was actually my first ever time to give such a talk. It was an enjoyable conference and many pleasant discussions were had around the posters and later on at the conference dinner where we were front and center to some excellent cultural experiences and plenty of soju.

Figure 4. Picture on the left is of the director of the RDA giving an address at the beginning of the conference. The chosen few: The four young soil scientists that were selected to represent Korea at the upcoming soil judging contest in Brazil in 2018. lastly, some of the marvelous cultural shows at the conference dinner.

Final word

This trip to Korea was thoroughly enjoyable. Our hosts were absolutely wonderful, in particular Dr. Chang Hoon Lee and Chulwoo Geoff Lee who made sure we ate well and showed us many interesting places on our travels inside the country. In am encouraged by the enthusiasm for digital soil mapping in Korea and look forward to continuing collaborative work together. There is plenty to do and plenty to learn. Geonbae.