How Does NASA Help Farmers?


The agricultural industry is the backbone to not only America’s economy, but that of the world’s, and without it, civilization would not exist. Thankfully, over the last century, technology has improved greatly to overall enable more efficient cultivation of crops that feed humanity, such as advanced tracking data that monitors harvests, as well as meteorological advancements that allow farmers to predict weather patterns to adjust their farming practices accordingly.

At the forefront of these innovations has been NASA, and the organization has played a surprising role in developing more efficient farming practices for the world. NASA’s constantly evolving technology has led to all kinds of developments that directly benefit farmers on Earth so that they can have more successful yields, which in turn benefits all of us who rely on agriculture to sustain ourselves.

NASA’s Earth-Observing Satellites: A Key Tool for the Farming Industry

Most of NASA’s contributions to the farming agency come from their Earth-observing satellites which have been in operation for years. These satellites observe various components of farming conditions from afar, providing real-time data and tracking to the farming industry that is directly applied to how crops are grown, harvested and generally managed. These satellites are extremely advanced, and yet again, demonstrate the value in funding NASA annually to not only improve space travel, but life here on Earth.

NASA’s impressive satellites simply provide more accurate, timely and thorough data than anything that could be developed by another agency. This gives farmers major advantages as they are better able to predict unfavorable conditions and understand the conditions that they are presently working with, to adjust their growing methods as needed to guarantee the best yields possible each year.

All of us who engage in some level of gardening check the weather reports. We need to know when it’s going to rain to ensure that our plants sustain proper moisture levels, and we need to be mindful of changing temperatures to know when it’s time to cover more vulnerable crops. Still, more intricate data is lacking, and this leaves much of our gardening success up to chance. The farming industry can’t afford this, since our entire society depends on them. Therefore, NASA has stepped up to the plate with a series of programs that provide large-scale farmers with what they need to be successful.

Observing Moisture Levels

Without moisture, crops would not grow. And, moisture patterns can be tough to observe on a large scale. Regular gardeners know that they can simply stick their hand into the soil to determine whether water is needed, or whether the soil is so wet that they need to hold off on watering. Plants are enormously temperamental when it comes to moisture levels, and both a lack of moisture and too much moisture can quickly kill a plant.

Large farmers need a more efficient way to monitor moisture. Big farms can have varying moisture levels throughout, depending on factors like soil condition and exposure to sun. It’s simply not realistic for a farmer to manually check the moisture levels with their hand if they have a big piece of land.

That’s where NASA comes in. Crop-CASMA is a tool that observes moisture levels across parts of land both large and small, so that farmers don’t need to get their hands dirty – literally. It’s an extremely useful tool that provides accurate data, and that accuracy is also important, as without precise measurements, farmers can be unsure as to how much moisture must be added to soil. This essentially creates a way for farmers to know exactly how much to water their crops based on existing moisture levels at all times. Meanwhile, the same NASA-developed technology provides larger-scale state moisture reports, along with measurements of growing progress, in the form of Crop Progress Reports that are provided monthly.

Determining Climate Patterns to Enable Better Growing

Once upon a time, farming was a high-risk practice. There was no way to tell if a drought was set to destroy small seedlings, or if heavy rainfall would drown out an entire farm. There was no way to predict a late-spring freeze that would kill an entire field, or a heatwave set to dry out even the most robust crops.

Now, of course, we have accurate weather reports that we can check daily. But, NASA has expanded on this technology specifically to benefit the farming industry, with a series of tools based on their satellites that observe Earth’s patterns daily.

The Landsat program is one of the most recent to be upgraded, and tracks the surface of the Earth to observe weather patterns. Meanwhile, the SMAP (Soil Moisture Active Passive) observes moisture levels throughout large stretches of land, and other instruments effectively observe temperature, weather and more in ways that provide real-time analytics as well as predictive tools so that farmers know what measures to take to protect their harvests.

Tracking of Crop Conditions

A huge innovation from NASA as been the GEOGLAM (Group on Earth Observations Global Agricultural Monitoring Initiative), which tracks and reports crops being grown around the world to observe their growth progress and overall health. This is a huge gift to the farming industry which provides the only true observational data on the success of harvests.

NASA Has Changed Farming Forever

There’s no doubt that NASA has benefited the farming industry throughout the world in ways that were, only decades ago, seemingly impossible. And, as time goes on, NASA will continue to prioritize the agricultural industry with new instruments and data trackers to ensure better yields worldwide.

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