© Doreen Saggau, Uni Kiel

© Zimmermann/Gerken

According to a report by the EU Commission, over 60 percent of agricultural soils in the European Union are overfertilized. The consequences are soil acidification, polluted waters, reduced biodiversity and declining soil yields. The upcoming soil health law and associated fertilizer requirements aim to improve soil quality, but pose significant challenges for farmers. Despite the need, there is no satisfactory solution for nutrient time series. New technical approaches are needed to assist farmers in analyzing nutrient levels for optimal fertilizer management and effective compliance.

As part of the EIC Transition Project SOILMONITOR, we aim to develop a device that will perform regular, automated analyses of important nutrients such as nitrate, ammonium and phosphate directly from groundwater. This battery-powered miniaturized sensor will remain in the soil for up to 1 year and will be able to transmit data in real time. Making timely adjustments possible for the very first time.

© Spielvogel/Gerken
© Zimmermann/Gerken

As our solution aims to future-proof crop yields and help reduce soil and groundwater pollution, it touches several SDGs: SDG 2 – Zero Hunger, as protecting yield quality and quantity is increasingly dependent on nutrient sensing due to growing economic and regulatory pressures on farmers. SDG 3 – Good Health and Well-being, as nitrate-contaminated soils and waters pose a significant health risk. SDG 6 – Clean Water and Sanitation, as nitrate leaching is a major contributor to groundwater pollution. Finally, SDG 13 – Climate Action, as our sensor aims to reduce the impacts of climate change such as biodiversity loss, acidification and eutrophication. Acidification also exacerbates global warming by reducing the oceans’ ability to absorb CO2.

About us

We are an interdisciplinary team at Kiel University with the work package leaders listed below (contact information obtained when clicking on photos).

Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel (CAU)

Christian-Albrechts-Platz 4
D-24118 Kiel


Prof. Dr. Martina Gerken
Dr. Monika Sienknecht
Prof. Dr. Sandra Spielvogel

Prof. Dr. Zeynep Altintas


The EU is funding the SOILMONITOR project with around 2.5 million euros. The project is running 11/2022 to 10/2025.