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New professor of pedology and digital soil mapping

Mogens H. Greve joins as Professor of Pedology and Digital Soil Mapping at the Department of Agroecology at Aarhus University.

Mogens H. Greve joins as Professor of Pedology and Digital Soil Mapping at the Department of Agroecology at Aarhus University. Photo: Camilla Brodam

Aarhus University has hired Section Leader Mogens H. Greve as Professor of Pedology and Digital Soil Mapping with effect from 15 November 2021.

Since Mogens H. Greve in 1990 stood as a graduate geologist outside Aarhus University, it has been mapping, landscapes, and soils that has been his focus.

“So, I had a slightly diffuse idea of ​​what a geologist was when I started the education, but during the study my interest in mapping grew rapidly. You can probably call me a natural geographer-geologist, because it was landscapes and soil that already caught my attention from early on,” says the new professor.

Moved to the cold north

His career started at the Department of Geology at Aarhus University, where Mogens H. Greve helped to develop the system that is still used today by the Forest and Nature Agency for sustainable selection of species for afforestation on agricultural land.

In 1992, he moved to Norway, where he was employed by the Norsk Institutt for Jord- og Skogkartlegging.

“Here I was employed firstly as an engineer and later as a senior engineer. I led a mapping project in southern Norway and another near Trondheim. The job involved 5 months of field work during the summer, and office work in the winter when the soil was frozen,” says Mogens H. Greve, who explains that the field work is his favorite. Here he can get soil under his nails and wind in his beard.

However, he did not remain in the cold north, and after mapping Norwegian agricultural land for 4 years in order to avoid erosion, he returned to Denmark. This time it was a position at the Dansk Jordbundsforskning in Foulum that enticed.

A new era in soil mapping

"When I was hired by the Dansk Jordbundsforskning in Foulum, it was to do soil mapping and development of new methods for this, and it has actually been my core area ever since," says Mogens H. Greve.

The purchase of a soil sensor, the first of its kind at Dansk Jordbundsforskning, was a milestone for Mogens H. Greve's research activities.

"That sensor started a whole new era, where we went from analog mapping to digital mapping," explains Mogens H. Greve.

Before the sensor, the mapping took place using e.g. soil spikes and markings of soil boundaries on aerial photographs.

“This was the beginning of the statistical soil maps we know today, but it was a completely new method at the time. Since then, of course, there has been a gradual development of the statistical mapping methods,” says Mogens H. Greve.

PhD thesis and management education

The new professor not only has a degree as a geologist, in 2004 he received a PhD degree at the University of Copenhagen. To no surprise the PhD dealt with mapping systems, and with the title "A Danish Soil Reference System for Soil Interpretations on a Detailed Scale", the dissertation sums up very well what has always been the professor's great interest and passion.

Just a few years after completing his PhD Mogens H. Greve was once again on the school bench, this time it was a master in public administration with a focus on management and strategic planning at Aalborg University that enticed.

Deep learning, remote sensing and drones

Just as Mogens H. Greve has developed over the years with various educations and titles, so the technology and methods within his research area have also developed a lot.

"Deep learning is the new black at the moment, and it is not without reason. It is a statistical method that is significantly more complicated than other models, but it seems that in certain circumstances it also gives better predictions,” explains the professor.

Spectroscopy of soil samples is another research area that has been evolved in the Department of Agroecology in collaboration with the company Foss Analytics. These methods make it possible to analyze soil samples much faster, more efficiently, and cheaper than before. A technology Mogens H. Greve has helped to introduce.

“There is a constant development of mapping methods and sensor-based mapping. In the ReDoCO2 project, we have started to look into the fact that our soil sensors can be drone-borne, this opens up a whole new world of mapping activities. It is really exciting,” says Mogens H. Greve.

According to the professor, drone and satellite-based remote sensing are becoming more and more detailed both on a scale, where you can map smaller and smaller pixels, but also spectrally, where you get more and more information out of each pixel.

Lots of work in the future

“I believe that in the future there will be a lot of activity within my research area. There is a really great need for knowledge about the soil's resources. Firstly, there is quite a lot of pressure on the ground as a result of the intensification we have experienced in Danish agriculture, and secondly, we are experiencing an increasing global need for more food,” says Mogens H. Greve, who in addition to a great focus on government tasks spends a large part of its time on teaching, education and dissemination to not only university students and younger researchers, but also high school students.

In recent years, peat soils have taken up much of his time, and it does not look like it will diminish in the future. But there is a definite challenge ahead that has Mogens H. Greve's focus.

“Mapping and monitoring of ordinary agricultural land, I am absolutely sure that will be part of the future. And then it gets interesting. Right now, we are focusing on peat soils, but I am sure that that interest will spread to other soils, especially in connection with carbon accounting and sustainable production on agricultural soils. If one is to achieve a climate-neutral agriculture, then the farmer in my opinion needs to be able to document the carbon content of his soil and the development in the carbon content. I am sure that here too we will play a role in relation to having systems made for just that,” concludes Mogens H. Greve, who will give his inaugural lecture at the beginning of the new year.

Additional information

Contact Professor Mogens H. Greve, Department of Agroecology, Aarhus University. Tel.: +45 20726734 or email: greve@agro.au.dk