Measuring how sound bounces off soil could help boost wheat production and help meet a 50 per cent rise in global food demand by 2030.
Wheat yields can be hampered during water shortages because of an increase in soil strength but existing methods of soil strength testing are invasive and laborious.
Open University Professor Keith Attenborough, of the Acoustics Research Group, leads a £680,000 EPSRC-funded project investigating a non-invasive acoustic-seismic method. Sound at several frequencies is played near the ground surface and sound pressure and soil particle movement measured using microphones and a laser.
Sound speeds in soils depend on water content and soil structure. The proposed technique provides information relevant to root growth and there is a future commercial potential for detecting buried objects.
The science of acoustics could play a vital role in boosting world food production – and save millions of pounds in crop watering.