NASA scientists, including one of Indian-origin, have developed a new satellite than can predict the severity of droughts worldwide and help farmers maximise crop yield.
Currently, there is no ground- or satellite-based global network monitoring soil moisture at a local level and farmers have little data available to help them understand current conditions.
Farmers, scientists and resource managers can place sensors in the ground, but these only provide spot measurements and are rare across some critical agricultural areas in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite mission, scheduled to launch later, will collect the kind of local data agricultural and water managers worldwide need. SMAP uses two microwave instruments to monitor the top five centimetres of soil on Earth’s surface.
Together, the instruments create soil moisture estimates with a resolution of about nine kilometres mapping the entire globe every two or three days.
Although this resolution cannot show how soil moisture might vary within a single field, it will give the most detailed maps yet made.