May 27, 2009

Satellite used to aid in crop forecasting

The U.S. space agency says it is using satellite data to make accurate estimates of soil moisture, thereby improving global crop forecasting.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration scientist John Bolten said the new modeling product uses data from NASA's Aqua satellite to improve the accuracy of soil moisture forecasts by 5 percent over previous methods. Bolten said although seemingly small and incremental, the increase can make a big difference in the precision of crop forecasts.

Under a new NASA collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the satellite data are being used to issue daily soil moisture snapshots to help officials prepare for and prevent food crises.

This advance is making it possible for us to do our job in a more precise way, said Curt Reynolds, a USDA crop analyst. We plan to make NASA's soil moisture information available to commodity markets, traders, agricultural producers, and policymakers through our Crop Explorer Web site. The Web site is available at

The program was presented this week in Toronto during the Joint Assembly of the American Geophysical Union.