29 March 2015 | Online since 2003



19 August 2014|Arable,Cereal,Crops,News

New satellite data will help farmers facing drought


About 60 percent of California is experiencing “exceptional drought,” the U.S. Drought Monitor’s most dire classification. The agency issued the same warning to Texas and the southeastern United States in 2012. California’s last two winters have been among the driest since records began in 1879. Without enough water in the soil, seeds can’t sprout roots, leaves can’t perform photosynthesis, and agriculture can’t be sustained.

Currently, there is no ground- or satellite-based global network monitoring soil moisture at a local level. Farmers, scientists and resource managers can place sensors in the ground, but these only provide spot measurements and are rare across some critical agricultural areas in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The European Space Agency’s Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity mission measures soil moisture at a resolution of 31 miles (50 kilometers), but because soil moisture can vary on a much smaller scale, its data are most useful in broad forecasts.

Enter NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite. The mission, scheduled to launch this winter, will collect the kind of local data agricultural and water managers worldwide need.

SMAP uses two microwave instruments to monitor the top 2 inches (5 centimeters) of soil on Earth’s surface. Together, the instruments create soil moisture estimates with a resolution of about 6 miles (9 kilometers), mapping the entire globe every two or three days. Although this resolution cannot show how soil moisture might vary within a single field, it will give the most detailed maps yet made.

“Agricultural drought occurs when the demand for water for crop production exceeds available water supplies from precipitation, surface water and sustainable withdrawals from groundwater,” said Forrest Melton, a research scientist in the Ecological Forecasting Lab at NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California.

“Based on snowpack and precipitation data in California, by March we had a pretty good idea that by summer we’d be in a severe agricultural drought,” Melton added. “But irrigation in parts of India, the Middle East and other regions relies heavily on the pumping of groundwater during some or all of the year.” Underground water resources are hard to estimate, so farmers who rely on groundwater have fewer indicators of approaching shortfalls than those whose irrigation comes partially from rain or snowmelt. For these parts of the world where farmers have little data available to help them understand current conditions, SMAP's measurements could fill a significant void.

Some farmers handle drought by changing irrigation patterns. Others delay planting or harvesting to give plants their best shot at success. Currently, schedule modifications are based mostly on growers’ observations and experience. SMAP’s data will provide an objective assessment of soil moisture to help with their management strategy.

“If farmers of rain-fed crops know soil moisture, they can schedule their planting to maximize crop yield,” said Narendra Das, a water and carbon cycle scientist on SMAP’s science team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “SMAP can assist in predicting how dramatic drought will be, and then its data can help farmers plan their recovery from drought.”

“Scientists see tremendous potential in SMAP,” Melton said. “It is not going to provide field-level information, but it will give very useful new regional observations of soil moisture conditions, which will be important for drought monitoring and a wide range of applications related to agriculture. Having the ability provided by SMAP to continuously map soil moisture conditions over large areas will be a major advance.”

Download



Comments


No comments posted yet. Be the first to post a comment

To post comment without approval login or register

Display name

Please enter your name

Email (optional)
Comment

Please enter your comment

Post Comment

Your comment submitted successfully.Please wait for admin approval.

Some error on your process.Please try one more time.



Jobs


25 March 2015
Poultry Production Apprentice
This work is only with poultry, no other livestock is kept at the farm. Possible duties could include;...

24 March 2015
Senior Business Development Manager/ Field Sales(Aftermarket Products)
Do you live in or have you worked for Automotive, Construction, Industrial, Agriculture, Aftermarket, Material Handling, Sale...

20 March 2015
Farmshop Specialists - Cheese and Deli Counter
We built Tebay Services, our first motorway service area, in 1972 when the M6 was built through our hill farm. Farmshop Speci...

10 March 2015
2391 Electrician - Swindon
2391 Electrician needed to work on solar farm. Good length of work testing solar panels out side....

12 March 2015
Safeguarding & Welfare Officer
Moat Farm Junior School is a large 4 form entry primary school, with 470 pupils on roll between the ages of 7 and 11....




Top stories you may have missed
23 March 2015 | Cattle

UK butchers face difficulties to recruit...

Butchers in the UK are losing a generation through lack of training opportu...


20 March 2015 | Arable

Dust - the secret fertiliser?

NASA research has revealed how dust blown from the Sahara desert helps supp...


19 March 2015 | Arable

The Budget 2015: A Farmer's Budget?

“In the run up to the Budget 2015 most commentators were predicting that th...


17 March 2015 | News

UK's first floating solar power system l...

The UK’s first fully operational floating solar panel system has been unvei...


13 March 2015 | Animal Health

Labour and Conservatives clash over badg...

Axing the badger cull in England and Wales will save more than £120 million...


12 March 2015 | News

Solar could be cheapest energy source by...

By 2025, solar power could become one of the cheapest forms of energy in ma...


11 March 2015 | Finance

English buyers turn their attention to S...

Demand for Scottish farm land remains strong and continues to be better val...


9 March 2015 | Cattle

2020 vision for the Welsh red meat indus...

The Welsh red meat industry should aim to increase sales by at least 34 per...


6 March 2015 | News

MP raises egg industry concerns on trans...

Fears about the impact that a proposed transatlantic trade agreement could ...


Stay safe and legal when flying drones

The use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Unmanned Aircraft Systems - or dron...