Moffett Field, US: To support irrigation management decisions by agricultural producers, NASA has launched a project that uses the Terrestrial Observation and Prediction System (TOPS), a software application that processes imagery from Earth-observing satellites and delivers new sources of information to California growers.
TOPS combines data from NASA satellites, with local weather observations to provide information about crop water needs. The project is an example of NASA’s efforts to address needs outside the science community, such as water management in California and the western US.
“Growers have the best understanding of how much water is needed for their crops, based on the unique conditions associated with each field,” said Forrest Melton, a project scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California. “Our goal is to provide additional information from NASA satellites to help growers get the most value out of the water they have available.”
This new version of TOPS builds on technologies developed by prior NASA-supported research to optimise irrigation management and quality control in California vineyards. The project is now designing new ways to link satellite observations with measurements from wireless sensor networks installed in agricultural fields. By combining these two sources of information, scientists will develop a highly accurate picture of the water balance across each field, providing participating growers with a new source of information to manage their irrigation systems. The prototype system is undergoing beta-testing in collaboration with growers in the San Joaquin Valley.
The project uses data from the Landsat programme. Lee Johnson, a senior research scientist at California State University, Monterey Bay working on the project, said, “The two Landsat satellites currently operating, collect new observations for every location approximately once a week, making the information useful to growers in drawing up irrigation schedules, and for water managers tasked with ensuring that enough water is available to meet the demand from agriculture.”
To process the vast volume of satellite data, the project is leveraging the NASA Earth Exchange, a new resource at NASA Ames that brings together global Earth observation datasets and NASA supercomputing resources to support both fundamental and applied research.