Friday, September 18, 2009

Precision farming in northwestern Minnesota

From space, Noreen Thomas’ farm in northwest Minnesota looks like a patchwork quilt. Fields change hue with the season and with the alternating plots of organic wheat, soybeans, corn, alfalfa, flax, or hay. Thomas enjoys this view from hundreds of miles above Earth’s surface—not just for the beauty, but the utility. She is among a growing group of Midwest farmers who rely on satellite imagery from Landsat to maximize their harvest and minimize damage to their fields. It’s become another crucial tool like their tractors and sprinklers.

The top true-color image, taken by the Landsat satellite on September 10, 2009, shows Thomas’s organic farm along the banks of the Buffalo River near the center of the image. Lush green fields dominate the image, though some crops have already been harvested leaving squares of tan and brown. The lower image shows the same scene in false color. Made with infrared light, the false-color image provides a wealth of information about crop conditions.

Fascinating article from NASA's Earth Observatory, the rest of it is right here.

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