Mitigation procedures put in place in response to COVID-19 have severely impacted the ability of agricultural agencies to perform routine data collection on the condition and productivity of crops, an unfortunate consequence that could negatively impact the stability of economic markets that rely upon this data. In an effort to mitigate this outcome, NASA Harvest partners, led by Hannah Kerner [US Domestic Co-Lead] are using Earth observation data to provide information on the condition and progress of crops in major food-producing countries. Answering NASA’s solicitation for research focused on the economic impacts of COVID-19, Kerner and team are producing publicly available maps and reports on the condition and progress of crops known to have prices heavily impacted by production uncertainty: corn and soybeans in the United States and winter wheat in Russia. These maps and reports will augment existing data sources by providing regularly-updated information about crop acreage and conditions during the growing season.
The ability to monitor crop growth and interview farmers has traditionally played an important part in stabilizing economic markets. The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service [USDA-NASS], for instance, produces the Crop Progress & Condition Report which is heavily used by market analysts to inform trading decisions concerning commodity crops. Restrictions on travel and socializing have limited the ability of states to conduct this research and, therefore, have raised concerns about the stability of agricultural markets. In addition, efforts by governments to limit exports have further jolted markets as the availability and amount of agricultural goods available for export are altered from regular years. Some wheat-exporting countries introduced export limits in response to COVID-19 with concern that they may lower export limits further if weather conditions proved unfavorable to crop production (fortunately, export limits were generally lifted by the end of June).
The ability of governments to know the quantity and quality of crops being grown within their borders is vital to their ability to accurately and effectively determine export limitations. This is also vital for high-import states to have a clear understanding of the availability of crops accessible for import. The maps and reports made available by NASA Harvest will be important information to help inform this decision-making.
Visit nasa.gov to view the official Rapid Response and Novel Research in Earth Science solicitation and see how Earth observation data is being used to monitor the impact of COVID-19 and inform policy decisions.