Satellite data helps farmers water crops efficiently

Glenn Farley reports.

SEATTLE – Modern technology is coming to the aid of one of humankind's oldest endeavors: Farming. 

That's because in much of the developing world farmers tend to air on the side of caution,  using too much water on their crops rather than risk having their crops dry out.

"They still use age-old ideas about how much water plants need, and they're actually overusing water," said Faisal Hossain, a researcher in the University of Washington's Civil Engineering Department.

Hossain is developing tools for farmers so farmers can use just the right amount of water. 

"If you use too much water, you actually lower the crop yield," Faisal said. "And two, you're also lowering the ground water."

By "mining water," Faisal said the ground water table drop, which makes it more expensive to pump the next year and the year after that. Eventually, entire farming regions can turn to desert.

The latest tool at his disposal is the Global Precipitation Measurement satellite. It’s the same satellite that was tested by NASA and University of Washington atmospheric scientists in Fall 2015.

Called Olympex, the satellite data was compared to a vast array of ground based instruments and research aircraft. It determines if the satellite was reading the volume of water in everything from rain to mist to snow accurately. 

The joint U.S.-Japanese satellite is the latest satellite. Along with older satellites, it can paint an increasingly accurate picture of rainfall worldwide.

With less wasted water, aquifers can begin to recharge.  

Copyright 2016 KING


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