How Satellites Track Status of Nation’s Food Supply and Help Farmers

NSW bushfires a big job for EU satellite

A European Union team has undertaken its largest emergency mapping operation of 2019 to help fight the recent bushfires that ravaged New South Wales.

The Australian government activated the EU’s Copernicus satellite emergency management service to track the fires, which killed six people and burnt thousands of hectares of land.

Copernicus data analyst Juan Escalante said the service was used to help firefighters form a plan on how to fight the fires based on their predicted movement. “This helps first responders on the field in order to make decisions, it’s not only showing the burnt area,” he said on Friday.

“This activation for Australia represents one of the most important activations in terms of the analysis produced.” The Australian government has now stopped the service, which was used to inform authorities up to a ministerial level….


How Satellites Track Status of Nation’s Food Supply and Help Farmers

Three moments in a tumultuous year for farming north of St. Louis, MO, as seen in NASA-USGS Landsat 8 data. On the left is May 7, 2019, as heavy rains delayed planting for many farms. Sept 12, 2019, in the middle, shows bright green signifying growing vegetation, although with a fair amount of brown, bare fields. On the right, Oct. 14, 2019, the light brown indicates harvested fields while darker brown are fields that have not been seeded or fallow all summer. Credit: NASA

Farmers across the Midwest are in a race to finish harvesting their corn, soybean, and other staples of the Thanksgiving dinner table before the first crop killing freeze sets in. September rains made a late harvest even later. Heavy spring rains flooded millions of acres of cropland around the Mississippi, Wisconsin and Missouri rivers. Some farmers never seeded; others started three weeks behind schedule.

These changes and delays in farmers’ plans this year made the United States Department of Agriculture’s job of tracking and estimating crop production with farmer surveys and ground observations a challenge. To meet it, they turned to the joint NASA — U.S. Geological Survey’s Landsat 8 satellite to fill in the missing pieces…


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