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Eyes in the sky

Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns will discuss the agricultural benefits of the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) at a press event May 20 at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, DC. As the redundant-sounding name implies, the GEOSS project seeks to coordinate multiple satellite networks into a comprehensive worldwide system for collecting weather and crop data.

GEOSS includes satellite data from U.S. agencies such as the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration System (NOAA) and National Aeronautic & Space Administration (NASA). More than 60 countries currently contribute to the project, as well as international organizations such as the European Space Agency. Private sector corporations with a stake in satellite imaging also participate in the program. Representatives from John Deere, Monsanto, Bunge, National Corn Growers Association, National Cotton Council and DigitalGlobe are expected to speak at the May 20 event.

Among the benefits expected to be discussed will be better local and regional scale temperature, rainfall, and soil moisture information. With such Earth observations, farmers can better decide the rate of fertilizer application, placement of seeds, and use of irrigation to maximize crop yield and minimize crop damage. Satellite images can be used as a scouting tool to evaluate crop stress on individual farms or on a global scale. Crop stress images from Brazil, for example, could be used to make better grain-marketing decisions.

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