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Gauging Kentucky's Soil From Space

Gauging soil moisture from space - a new USDA and NASA partnership. Credit: Greg Stotelmyer.
Gauging soil moisture from space - a new USDA and NASA partnership. Credit: Greg Stotelmyer.
August 3, 2015

FRANKFORT, Ky. – A partnership involving the U.S. Department of Agriculture and NASA could benefit farmers in Kentucky as the nation adjusts to the impact of climate change.

USDA Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden says the agreement will expand cooperation on space-borne remote sensing efforts to gather soil moisture data to develop maps that can help farmers.

"We know that the climate is changing and we have to adapt, we have to mitigate,” she states. “We want to give our producers all those tools to make sure they know as well in advance who is going to be impacted and when, so we can farm and ranch differently if we need to in certain parts of the country."

Harden adds that the NASA satellite images also will help Forest Service firefighters and first-responders better detect wildfires and predict their behavior.

While it has been a wet year in Kentucky, with rainfall totals in some parts of the state 10 or more inches above normal, the Southwest has been ravaged by drought.

Don England, a hay and cotton farmer in Arizona, says technology can provide a critical edge for farmers during drought. He uses drones for thermal imaging that can determine soil health down to the acre.

"Now I'm able to just break out the drones, with the cameras on those now,” he says. “I can really look and see and get a bird's eve view and cover more ground."

England maintains the thermal imaging can save farmers a fortune by knowing exactly where to add fertilizer or other soil amendments.


Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY