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Supporting crop water management with multi-scale Earth Observations

NASA satellites and technology support farm operations  to improve US production, resource use, and farmer livelihoods
NASA satellites and technology support farm operations to improve US production, resource use, and farmer livelihoods.
What We Do

Farmers need to make decisions on irrigation and soil moisture, tillage practices, cover crops, and crop rotations, which all take time and cost money. This project centers on using satellite remote sensing and field IoT devices to support crop water management decision making.

Location

Major crops across Lower Mississippi US; rangelands in western US; JECAM sites, expanding to CONUS row crops by 2020

How Satellites Make This Work

Decisions such as irrigation, pest management and conservation practices are made at the field scale or the livelihood scale – farmers therefore need information at this moderate resolution scale to make sound decisions that directly relate to their fields. Measurement, Reporting and Verification (MRV) platforms are thus key to growing the conservation agriculture economy. They can serve as a bridge between tech, sustainable resource use, and industry. In this project, satellite data and EO technologies, along with other tools, such as big data software and process-based crop modeling create cost effective tools to help reduce the burden on farmers, and therefore inform and optimize management decisions and outcomes. Open access operational synthetic aperture radar (SAR) and optical satellite earth observations (EO) are key to scaling the next generation of agricultural decision support tools.

 

SAR can penetrate clouds and provides information at the 10m resolution, taken every few days. It is useful also due to its sensitivity to structure, orientation, roughness and moisture, providing a more complete picture of the target. Instruments used to support crop water management include Sentinel-1, HLS (Landsat-8, Sentinel-2), UAVSAR, PALSAR-2, GOES-R, MODIS. 

What’s Happening
  • AgResults (USAID, UK, CA, Australia and Gates Foundation) are benefiting from EO SAR monitoring of small holder rice production in Red River Delta of Vietnam for tracking improvements in rice yields and reductions in GHG emissions.
  • The Nature Conservancy, CTIC and others are utilizing EO products on tillage and cover cropping to set a baseline for adoption of conservation practices and soil health (soil carbon, GHG emission and water quality impacts) against which supply chain sustainability progress can be tracked and transparently verified.
  • Water management EO uptake in Lower Mississippi basin and Deltaflux network is being advanced to promote conservation practices and link to supply chain DSTs
  • AGS is working with Ecosystem Services Markets Consortium (ESMC) in using the optical and SAR EO applications to support a cost effective market that rewards farmers for improving soil health. ESMC includes ADM, Bunge, Cargill, Indigo Ag, McDonalds, Mars, General Mills and others.
Lead
Nathan Torbick, Applied GeoSolutions
Team Members
William Salas, Applied GeoSolutions
Co-Funding

Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation’s funds the South America soybean assessment. There has been past NASA support for USA soybean assessment.