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Intelligent Development of Illinois Soils: ACES-Beckman-Center for Digital Agriculture (ABC) Collaborative Research in Soil Health Diagnostics

Project Team

  • Dr. Tony Grift, Associate Professor, Dept. of Agricultural and Biological Engineering
  • Dr. Michelle Wander, Professor, Dept. of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences
  • Dr. Carmen Ugarte, Research Specialist, Dept. of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences
  • Dr. Martin Bohn, Associate Professor, Dept. of Crop Sciences
  • Dr. Iwona Dobrucka, Senior Research Scientist, Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology


In January of 2019, at a meeting among ACES PIs and the leadership of the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology director Dr. Jeff Moore, associate director Dr. Patty Jones, and Biomedical Imaging Center director Dr. Tracey Wszalek, a commitment was made to start collaborative work in the area of soil health diagnostics. The first phase will explore how Beckman facilities can be integrated into R&D for soil health assessment, and generate preliminary data from the Morrow plots to leverage external funding. During phase two, data and methodologies will be applied to a wider range of soils as we systematically evaluate which physical, chemical, and biological soil parameters can be measured reliably with the imaging technologies available at the Beckman Institute. We will use the data to support development of soil engaging sensors needed to manage soil health at spatial and temporal scales. Phase three will scale up research to elevate these sensors from Technology Readiness Level TRL2 (Basic research) to TRL6 (Demonstration). In future research proposals we will ask the Center for Digital Agriculture (CDA) leaders Dr. Vikram Adve and Dr. Matt Hudson to participate in this effort; to avoid a potential conflict of interest, they are not part of this CDA seed proposal.