Some Illinois growers are using the power of NASA in a new project aimed at addressing food security, from improving crop outputs to working their land more efficiently.
Local farmers with the Illinois Corn Growers Association are working with University of Illinois researchers and NASA on a new Farmer Data Cooperative. Dr. Laura Gentry, the association's director of water quality research, said farmers are proud to feed the nation, and the project will help them grow more and reduce environmental impacts.
"So hopefully, bring value back to our farmers and to maintain the productivity of our fields," she said, "so that our farmers are making enough food, fuel and fiber to fuel our country."
Farmers will be able to access special NASA datasets and work with researchers to develop tools that will help them predict and address inefficiencies in the ways their farm operations are managed.
Gentry said some of the tools that could be used as part of the cooperative will focus on new market opportunities, land-use efficiency and nutrient management. When to fertilize crops is one example.
"Things that help farmers make better decisions when they're applying nitrogen fertilizer in season, helping them use NASA harvest satellite imagery to predict the growth stage and how much nitrogen has been taken up already," she said, "and then use that as a budget to decide how much nitrogen the crop is deficient."
She said farmers who participate will be part owners in the cooperative and have influence over developing the new tools and technologies. They'll pay into the cooperative by authorizing use of their farming data for further development and research.