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


NASA may grab headlines for its missions to Mars and returning to the moon, but some of its explorations are more grounded. Currently, the space program has then two dozen satellites helping us learn more about our planet.Some of that information is already helping farmers and ranchers.And it may prove critical as our climate keeps changing.For Kerry and Angela Knuth and their two sons near Mead, it’s already been a challenging year.”The drought, it’s been the worst since 2012,” Kerry Knuth said.Add to that historic increases in fertilizer and fuel costs.”Any practices that can reduce our input costs, reduce our equipment need for more horsepower is something that we should be looking into,” Angela Knuth said.That’s why they welcomed a recent visit from NASA’s director of Earth Sciences, Karen St. Germain.”We have satellites that look at a lot of different aspects of how the Earth works,” St. Germain said. The satellites gather data on precipitation, soil moisture and pollution in the atmosphere.She and her team want to know how they can better serve Nebraskans.”It’s about getting them the information they need in a format that they can make ready use of to inform their decisions. Not trying to tell them what to do,” St. Germain said. The Knuths are no strangers to technology.They’ve worked with University of Nebraska researchers using sensors to assess the need for fertilizer in the field.And they’ve used probes to determine soil moisture.”We’ve seen where we were overwatering,” Angela Knuth said.”We started putting probes in soybeans and all neighbors were watering. We weren’t watering. And we didn’t use yield at all. Actually, we didn’t have the expense of the water,” Angela Knuth said.But the couple needs 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 running us, we want it to be a tool,” Angela Knuth said. Especially during a challenging year.”We know that that the climate and weather patterns are changing and we know that this is going to increase the stress on farms, family farms, and frankly on our food security,” St. Germain said.The University of Nebraska is already using 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 missions to Mars and returning to the moon, but some of its explorations are more grounded.

Currently, the space program has then two dozen satellites helping us learn more about our planet.

Some of that information is already helping farmers and ranchers.

And it may prove critical as our climate keeps changing.

For Kerry and Angela Knuth and their two sons near Mead, it’s already been a challenging year.

“The drought, it’s been the worst since 2012,” Kerry Knuth said.

Add to that historic increases in fertilizer and fuel costs.

“Any practices that can reduce our input costs, reduce our equipment need for more horsepower is something that we should be looking into,” Angela Knuth said.

That’s why they welcomed a recent visit from NASA’s director of Earth Sciences, Karen St. Germain.

“We have satellites that look at a lot of different aspects of how the Earth works,” St. Germain said.

The satellites gather data on precipitation, soil moisture and pollution in the atmosphere.

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

“It’s about getting them the information they need in a format that they can make ready use of to inform their decisions. Not trying to tell them what to do,” St. Germain said.

The Knuths are no strangers to technology.

They’ve worked with University of Nebraska researchers using sensors to assess the need for fertilizer in the field.

And they’ve used probes to determine soil moisture.

“We’ve seen where we were overwatering,” Angela Knuth said.

“We started putting probes in soybeans and all neighbors were watering. We weren’t watering. And we didn’t use yield at all. Actually, we didn’t have the expense of the water,” Angela Knuth said.

But the couple needs 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 running us, we want it to be a tool,” Angela Knuth said.

Especially during a challenging year.

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

The University of Nebraska is already using 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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