A hardy and high-tech new soil sensor is the latest promising advance in precision agriculture.

The sensor, unveiled by BGN Technologies in Israel, can provide farmers with real-time data about nitrate levels in their soil. Nitrates are a common ingredient in fertilizers. When soil has an excessive concentration of nitrates, the compound leaches into groundwater and pollutes water supplies.

“Current methods for measuring soil nitrate are cumbersome, labor-intensive and do not provide real-time indication on the actual concentration of nutrients in the soil,” Dahan said.

Farmers could use this optical nitrate sensor to prevent over fertilization, benefiting both their crops and the underground water supply. The sensor relies on absorption spectroscopy and vastly improves upon the current and cumbersome methods of measuring soil nitrates, according to one of the developers, Professor Ofer Dahan.

Read more about the sensor here.