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USDA and NASA expand their partnership

Organizations hope to attract younger generations

By Diego Flammini,

The distance between Earth’s surface and outer space is approximately 100km (62 miles) but the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is doing their part to bridge that gap.

View of Earth from space

Through an expanded partnership, NASA and the USDA will work together and attempt to better predict wildfires and monitor drought, all while inspiring the next generation to pursue careers in agriculture, science and other fields.

"Space is a unique laboratory that can be a gateway to solving some of the greatest agricultural challenges of our time," said USDA Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden. "This partnership is a powerful opportunity for USDA and NASA to yield new tools and techniques to help farmers and ranchers as they deal with the ongoing impacts of climate change and drought. Perhaps most importantly, this partnership will expose more young people to the power of science and innovation to solve some of the world's most pressing challenges."

Among the initiatives are possible soil moisture maps for California that when used, could improve weather forecasting, water availability and provide early-drought warnings to farmers.

"There are many areas where NASA and USDA have overlapping interests," said NASA's Deputy Administrator Dava Newman. "We can now better coordinate and build on the resources of both NASA and the USDA to help learn more about our planet's vital resources and inspire the next generation to become better stewards of our planet."

Since 2009, the USDA has put approximately $4.32 billion into research and development. It’s estimated that every dollar invested in agricultural research brings more than $20 back into the American economy.

Join the conversation and tell us your thoughts about the USDA and NASA expanding their partnership. What are some other things NASA should look for in space to help the farmers on Earth?

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