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USDA launches new soil moisture portal

USDA launches new soil moisture portal

This tool provides thorough coverage across the country

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

A new tool from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other groups is designed to provide farmers, researchers and other industry stakeholders with thorough soil moisture data from across the country.

Staff from the USDA, NASA and George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., have created the Crop Condition and Soil Moisture Analytics (Crop-CASMA) tool.

This online map provides a detailed look at soil moisture across the United States. Users can perform different functions including downloading customized maps, zooming in on specific counties within states and animating the map to show soil moisture changes over time.

An instrument like this gives farmers another tool to use when assessing planting decisions, said Rajat Bindlish, a NASA research associate.

“Soil moisture is very important piece of information for agricultural yield and productivity,” he said in a March 8 statement. ““This will provide a means of using NASA remote sensing data to guide predictions of moisture conditions and water availability. Information on the field conditions is important for agricultural operations.”

The map uses data from NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive mission.

This orbiting observatory launched in January 2015 to measure the amount of water in the surface soil anywhere on Earth multiple times per week.

The data users see on Crop-CASMA represents readings from the surface to roughly three feet underground. Higher-resolution readings also help provide more accurate information.

“One state may be categorized as ‘wet’, but the whole state might not actually be wet,” Zhenwei Yang, Crop-CASMA project leader, said in a statement. “These new data deliver localized moisture readings – this is what matters to the farmer.”

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