NASA wants to help farmers use technology to deal with climate change

NASA may grab headlines for its Mars missions and moon returns, but some of its research is more grounded. The space program currently has two dozen satellites that help us learn more about our planet. Some of this information is already helping farmers and breeders. And it could prove critical as our climate continues to change. For Kerry and Angela Knuth and their two sons in nearby Mead, it’s already been a challenging year. “The drought is the worst since 2012,” Kerry Knuth said. Add to that the historic increases in fertilizer and fuel costs. “Any practices that can reduce our input costs, reduce our need for equipment because more horsepower is something we need to look at,” said Angela Knuth. That’s why they welcomed the recent visit of NASA’s director of Earth sciences, Karen St. Germain. “We have satellites that look at many different aspects of how the Earth works,” said St. Germain. The satellites collect data on precipitation, soil moisture and pollution in the atmosphere. She and her team want to know how they can do better to serve the people of Nebraska. “It’s about getting the information they need in a format they can readily use to inform their decisions. I’m not trying to tell them what to do,” St. Germain said. The Knuths are no strangers to technology. They worked with researchers at the University of Nebraska using sensors to estimate the need for fertilizer in a field. And they used probes to determine soil moisture.” We saw where we were overwatering, Angela Knuth said, “We started putting probes in the soybeans and all the neighbors were watering. We didn’t water. And we didn’t use mining at all. We didn’t really have the water costs,” Angela Knuth said. But the pair needed a quick way to understand the satellite data and how to incorporate it with other technologies. “It was interesting for us, but we don’t know how to use it,” Angela Knuth said. And when your operation spans 2,300 acres, your time and your decisions count.”Technology is good, but we don’t want it to rule us, we want it to be a tool,” said Angela Knuth. Especially during a difficult year. “We know the climate and the weather patterns are changing, and we know that’s going to increase the stress on farms, family farms and frankly on our food security,” St. Germain said. The University of Nebraska already uses some NASA data, which is free. The university’s National Drought Mitigation Center, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture use NASA data and more than 50 other data sources to create the U.S. Drought Monitor. The tool illustrates which parts of the United States and the world are currently experiencing drought.

NASA may grab headlines for its Mars missions and moon returns, but some of its research is more grounded.

The space program currently has two dozen satellites that help us learn more about our planet.

Some of this information is already helping farmers and breeders.

And that could prove critical as our climate continues to change.

It has already been a challenging year for Kerry and Angela Knuth and their two sons near Mead.

“The drought is the worst since 2012,” Kerry Knuth said.

Add to that the historic increases in fertilizer and fuel costs.

“Any practices that can reduce our input costs, reduce our need for more horsepower equipment, is something we need to look at,” Angela Knuth said.

That’s why they welcomed the recent visit by NASA’s Director of Earth Sciences, Karen St. Germain.

“We have satellites that look at many different aspects of how the Earth works,” Saint-Germain said.

The satellites collect data on rainfall, soil moisture and atmospheric pollution.

She and her team want to know how they can better serve Nebraskans.

“It’s about getting the information they need in a format they can use to inform their decisions. We’re not trying to tell them what to do,” St. Germain said.

The Knuths are no strangers to technology.

They worked with researchers at the University of Nebraska using sensors to estimate the need for fertilizers in the field.

And they used probes to determine soil moisture.

“We saw where we were over-watering,” Angela Knuth said.

“We started putting probes in the soybeans and all the neighbors were watering. We didn’t water. And we didn’t use mining at all. We didn’t really have the water costs,” Angela Knuth said.

But the pair needed a quick way to understand the satellite data and how to incorporate it with other technologies.

“We were interested, but we didn’t know how to use it,” Angela Knuth said.

And when your operation spans 2,300 acres, your time and your decisions matter.

“Technology is good, but we don’t want it to rule us, we want it to be a tool,” said Angela Knuth.

Especially during a difficult year.

“We know the climate and weather patterns are changing and we know that’s going to increase the stress on farms, family farms and frankly on our food security,” St. Germain said.

The University of Nebraska already uses some NASA data, which is free.

The university’s National Drought Mitigation Center, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture use NASA data and more than 50 other data sources to create the U.S. Drought Monitor.

The tool illustrates which parts of the United States and the world are currently experiencing drought.

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