NASA monitors water to help growers grow

Every day – up to thirty times a day, in fact – one of Mark Mason’s employees at Nature’s Reward Farms in Monterey County, Calif., Brings him the results of a soil test for discussion.

Mason oversees the fertilizer and irrigation of the 5,000-acre farm along California’s central coast, nicknamed “America’s Salad Bowl,” which is one of the most productive and diverse agricultural regions in the country. world. These soil test results are key to one of its most recent tools: CropManage, which is operated by the University of California Cooperative Extension and uses data from NASA and other sources. to create personalized irrigation and fertilizer recommendations. In addition to satellite measurements of crop development, it assesses local weather conditions, soil characteristics and the efficiency of the irrigation system.

But central California doesn’t get a lot of rain. Most of the central valley’s water comes from streams and reservoirs that capture snowmelt from the mountains and groundwater stored in porous deposits deep below the surface. These water sources face increasing pressures from climate change, human use and natural variability, making water management a complex and evolving problem. Monitoring the amount of water available to grow our grocery store has never been more vital, and Earth observation satellites and NASA partnership programs are helping farmers, water managers and policy makers. to monitor and allocate increasingly scarce water resources throughout their state.

NASA researchers are watching central California’s water sources up close, how they change over time and why – and produce information that can be used to figure out what to do about it. Satellites, aerial and field missions track snowfall, precipitation, soil moisture levels, groundwater depletion, crop health and evapotranspiration. By providing better information on how much water is entering and leaving the system, these indicators help farmers determine how much water they will need and how much will be accessible.

Matt Rodell is the deputy assistant director of earth sciences for hydrosphere, biosphere and geophysics at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. He studies groundwater around the world, using data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO) mission. Groundwater is especially important in places like the Central Valley and the Central Coast which do not receive much rainfall and face frequent droughts.

“Groundwater is extremely important because it is usually always available,” Rodell said. “It’s stored over many years, or decades, or centuries, or millennia – it’s like your savings account. You always want that water to be set aside so that it’s there for the tough times. ” California is one of the global hot spots that GRACE researchers are studying. It is one of the many regions where groundwater is depleted faster than it is recharged.

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