Jul 17, 2015

USDA, NASA Expand Partnership

The expanded partnership is designed to better predict wildfires and monitor drought from space

NASA USDA drought satellite monitoring wildfires

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden and NASA Deputy Administrator Dava Newman announced an expanded partnership between the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) designed to better protect America's working lands, predict and prevent natural disasters, and inspire young people to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and agriculture.

"Space is a unique laboratory that can be a gateway to solving some of the greatest agricultural challenges of our time," said Deputy Secretary Harden. "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."

Among other things, the agreement will expand cooperation on space-borne remote sensing efforts to gather soil moisture data. One potential outcome of the expanded partnership between USDA and NASA could be using satellite data to create a series of soil moisture maps for California that could be used to improve weather and water availability forecasting and provide a drought early-warning system to producers, particularly in California.

Under the new agreement, USDA now has expanded access to data from NASA satellites that will help Forest Service fire fighters and first responders better detect wildfires and predict their behavior. USDA and the Department of the Interior have spent nearly $1.5 billion annually over the past decade on wildfire suppression, but this new technology has the potential to stop wildfires before they start, saving money, land and even lives.

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