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From Seed to Market: How NASA brings food to the table

From Seed to Market: How NASA brings food to the table

From Seed to Market: How NASA brings food to the table

Did you know we help farmers grow some of your favorite fruits, veggies and grains?

Our Earth-observing satellites track rainfall amounts, soil moisture, crop health, and more. On the ground, we partner with agencies and organizations around the world to help farmers use that data to care for their fields.

Here are a few ways we help put food on the table, from planting to harvest.


From Seed to Market: How NASA brings food to the table

Did you plant seeds in science class to watch them sprout and grow? They all needed water, right? Our data helps farmers “see” how moist the soil is across large fields.

“When you’re not sure when to water your flowers or your garden, you can look at the soil or touch it with your hands. We are sort of ‘feeling’ the soil, sensing how much water is in the soil – from a satellite,

685 kilometers (408 miles) above Earth,” said John Bolten, the associate program manager of water resources for NASA’s Applied Sciences Program.

This spring, we worked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and George Mason University to release Crop-CASMA, a tool that shows soil moisture and vegetation conditions for the United States. Able to see smaller areas – about the size of a couple of golf courses – the USDA uses Crop-CASMA to help update farmers on their state’s soil moisture, crop health and growing progress.


From Seed to Market: How NASA brings food to the table

It’s dangerous being a seedling.

Heavy spring rains or summer storms can flood fields and drown growing plants. Dry spells and droughts can starve them of nutrients. Insects and hail can damage them. Farmers need to keep a close eye on plants during the spring and summer months. Our data and programs help them do that.

From Seed to Market: How NASA brings food to the table

For example, in California, irrigation is essential for agriculture. California’s Central Valley annually produces more than 250 types of crops and is one of the most productive agricultural regions in the country – but it’s dry. Some parts only get 6 inches of rain per year.

To help, Landsat data powers CropManage – an app that tells farmers how long to irrigate their fields, based on soil conditions and evapotranspiration, or how much water plants are releasing into the atmosphere. The warmer and drier the atmosphere, the more plants “sweat” and lose water that needs to be replenished. Knowing how long to irrigate helps farmers conserve water and be more efficient. In years like 2021, intense droughts can make water management especially critical.


Leading up to harvest, farmers need to know their expected yields – and profits.

GEOGLAM, or the Group on Earth Observations Global Agricultural Monitoring Initiative, is a partnership between NASA Harvest, USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) and other global agencies to track and report on crop conditions around the world.

USDA FAS is one of the main users of a soil moisture measurement product developed by Bolten and his team at our NASA Goddard Space Flight Center to drive their crop forecasting system.

If you’re interested in more ways we support agriculture, stay tuned over the next few weeks to learn more about how satellites (and scientists) help put snacks on your table!

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