Using satellites to assess crop health
Remote sensing technology is making an impression in the agricultural sector, particularly by estimating crop yields in low development farming regions where data might not be readily available.
Reuters reports researchers from Stanford University are studying small plots of maize in Western Kenya to test whether new satellite imagery is detailed enough to accurately predict crop yields; thus far, projections have been “surprisingly accurate.” According to the article, the researchers plan to expand their project across sub-Saharan Africa.
AgFunderNews explains satellite radiometers measure wavelengths of light energy reflected by these crop fields. Known as spectral response, this data points to levels of plant stress. Specific wavelengths provide information necessary to create “vegetation indexes,” which measure the relative density and health of vegetation within each pixel of a satellite image, alerting farmers to problem areas within certain fields while there’s still time to address the issue.
Additionally, satellite data can provide insight about the effects site-specific inputs such as fertilizer, pesticides, and irrigation—as well as environmental factors like drainage—have on crop health.
High-quality, up-to-date imagery is instrumental in improving agricultural productivity and will play a major role in combating hunger and poverty as the world’s population continues to grow.
To learn more about geospatially-based precision agriculture, check out trajectory’s recent feature article “Autonomous Agronomy.”
Photo Credit: John Deere