Did You Know: Farming by Satellite

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Did you know that satellites are important tools for farmers? This segment explains how farmers use visible and infrared satellite imagery to monitor crop and soil health, and to make decisions regarding irrigation, harvesting, fertilizer application, and other agricultural practices.

Produced by the Space Telescope Science Institute’s Office of Public Outreach in collaboration with the NASA Earth Observatory (https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/).
Story adapted from Image of the Day post by Gretchen Cook-Anderson: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/40228/precision-farming-in-minnesota

  • Image of farmland in Minnesota and North Dakota: Landsat 7 collecting data (NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center)
  • Image of farmland North Dakota and Minnesota, natural-color reflected sunlight image: Thematic Mapper, Landsat 5 satellite
  • Infrared image of field in Minnesota, emitted infrared light: Thematic Mapper, Landsat 5 satellite
  • Water Deficit Map (Red = Dry): Daedalus sensor, NASA aircraft
  • Crop Density Map (Blue = Lush Vegetation): Daedalus sensor, NASA aircraft
  • Crop Stress Map (Red = Serious Stress): Daedalus sensor, NASA aircraft
  • Written by Kathryn Porter

Text, did you know? Farming by satellite.
Satellites are important tools for farmers. Image, satellite orbits in night sky. Text, Remote sensing with satellites and aircraft allows farmers to survey large tracts of land relatively quickly and inexpensively.
The satellite scans the ground. Image, countless green and brown squares of farmlands outside of the city of Fargo. Red River and Buffalo River. Text, monitoring crop and soil health is a critical aspect of farming. North Dakota and Minnesota.
Legend appears. Dark greens, crops like wheat, soybeans, and corn. Light brown, harvested fields.
The image through a red filter. Text, Sensors on satellites, airplanes, and drones detect various types of light given off or reflected by the vegetation and soil.
The color and brightness of light provides information about how much moisture is in the soil, which types of plants are growing, and how mature or healthy the crops are.
The red filter disappears. Text, Farmers can use images from satellites and aircraft to identify fields that are too dry or to wet, crops that are healthy or diseased, and areas where fertilizer, irrigation, or other measures would be most effective.
Images, water deficit map, red, dry, crop density map, blue, lush vegetation, crop stress map, red, serious stress.