USDA partners with NASA

At first brush a partnership between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration may sound like an odd pairing. The truth is, however, that NASA’s capabilities far above the earth can be of great help to the USDA in fulfilling its agricultural mission all across America.

According to a statement issued last month by the USDA, the goal of this innovative linkage is to improve the department’s ability to protect farm land and help prevent and predict natural disasters.

“Space is a unique laboratory that can be a gateway to solving some of the greatest agricultural challenges of our time,” said USDA Deputy Secretary Harden in announcing the expanded relationship between his department and NASA. “This partnership is a powerful opportunity for USDA and NASA to yield new tools and techniques to help farmers and ranchers as they deal with the ongoing impacts of climate change and drought. Perhaps most importantly, this partnership will expose more young people to the power of science and innovation to solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges.”

The USDA announcement highlights the following benefits of this budding collaboration:

Expanded cooperation on space-borne remote sensing efforts to gather soil moisture data;

Use of satellite data to create a series of soil moisture maps that could be improve weather and water availability forecasting and provide a drought early-warning system;

Improved forest fire detection and

More USDA access to NASA satellites for assorted research projects.

The new arrangement is intended to stimulate a variety of scientific investigations. The long-term consequences of such endeavors are always difficult to predict with precision. It is clear, however, that such inquiries often yield positive economic results that far outweigh their cost.

The Messenger applauds this initiative. We look forward to learning more about its contributions to agriculture in the months and years ahead.