NASA Wants Farmers' View of Derecho Damage

Images from the Sentinel-1 synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite taken on Aug. 15, 2020, showing crops flattened by the Aug. 10 derecho. ( NASA Harvest )

The Aug. 10 derecho that ripped across Iowa and northern Illinois flattened corn fields to the degree that damage is visible from space. The severe winds impacted some 3.5 million acres of corn and 2.5 million acres of soybeans, according the Iowa Department of Agriculture. Fifty-seven million bushels of storage capacity was destroyed in the state.

Satellite imagery clearly shows where crops were impacted, but the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) wants to dig in to how that damage correlates to yield damage.

The survey is a project of NASA Harvest, a consortium of researchers working in concert with the space agency to bring practical usage of satellite technology to agriculture.

“Our main priority is to make sure that satellite data doesn't just stay in the research domain, but that we can really advance the technology, the applications of what it can do,” Dr. Inbal Becker-Reshef of the University of Maryland and NASA Harvest Director explained on the AgriTalk Radio Show. “And make sure that we're guided by various stakeholders, whether that's governments, whether that's humanitarian organizations, whether that's industry or farmers, but making sure that this data is converted into useful information. And so, again, whether that's looking at the impact of disasters and trying to have fairly rapid response on that, whether it's trying to give a global perspective or of what crop production might look like how are crops evolving, looking at area changes and different changes in terms of what's going on around the world, as well as looking at some sustainability issues and trying to see what is it that satellite data can provide and help advance in terms of applications.”



That’s where the derecho damage comes into play. NASA Harvest wants to both help quantify the damage caused by the storm and use on-the-ground data from farmers to help fine-tune how satellite imagery estimates crop damage.

“We have these images that we get from the satellites and in those signals we know that corn laying flat looks different than corn staying up, and crops that might be affected by drought will look different than crops that are very healthy,” said Dr. Hannah Kerner, the U.S. lead for NASA Harvest and a professor at the University of Maryland.  “But we need the data from the ground to be able to know what those signals look like and then to map how those impacts are distributed across larger areas, using the satellite data.”


Compare satellite imagery of Iowa from just before and just after the Aug. 10 storm.


NASA Harvest is asking farmers to send geolocated photos from both damaged and undamaged crop areas to the project to help bolster the information from the satellite imagery. The data will not only help better define the damage from the Aug. 10 derecho, but will also help government and other agencies respond more quickly the next time weather damage occurs because responders will get a more informed picture from what they gather from space. 

“For example,  our humanitarian work will often be to anticipate or track where there's a drought, how it's impacting production, where we might be anticipating shortfalls and give that lead time to help plan mitigation and response,” Kerner said.  We do a lot of work on on yield forecasting and trying to do that as early as possible, at the same time we're also trying to do estimates at end of season, learning from previous seasons: how do we then deal when we do get an event like this derecho, for example, so that we're ready then with the tools that we need and the models that we need to be able to be quick and have a rapid response and analysis.”

Better calibrated satellite data can also help more clearly track crops in competitive parts of the work such as China, Russia and Brazil, according to the researchers.

To send geotagged photos and information to the project, follow the instructions below provided by NASA Harvest.

If you’re visiting or working in your fields and can take new photos, here’s how to take geo-tagged photos:

1. Navigate to Settings > Privacy > Location Services > Camera. Select “While Using the App” as shown in the image below.

iphone screenshot

2. Use the Camera app to take a new photo.

3. Follow the instructions below to email the image to [email protected] and ensure the location is saved in your photo.

 

If you’ve already taken some images that you have stored in your Photos, check if the location was stored when you took them:

  1. Open the image in the Photos app. If the image has a location, it will likely show it above the image (red box in image below). Click the Share icon (green circle in image below).

iphone screenshot

2. If the image has a location, you will see “Locations included” when you click the Share icon (red box in image below). Click the Gmail or Mail app (whichever you use) to share the image (green box in image below). 

iphone screenshot

3. Email the image to [email protected] with the subject line “Derecho photos”.

 

Instructions For Android

If you’re visiting or working in your fields and can take new photos, here’s how to take geo-tagged photos:

  1. Open the Gallery app and navigate to its settings. Look for the “Location tags” or “Save location” option and enable it.
  2. Open the Gallery app and navigate to its settings. Turn on the location setting.
  3. Use the Camera app to take a new photo.
  4. Follow the instructions below to email the image to [email protected] and ensure the location is saved in your photo.

 

If you’ve already taken some images that you have stored in your Gallery, check if the location was stored when you took them:

  1. Open the Gallery app and click the three-horizontal dot icon in the top right corner. 
  2. Select “Info” or “Details”. This should show you a map preview of the location where the image was taken.
  3. Email the image to [email protected] with the subject line “Derecho photos”.

Read more:

Derecho Devastation in Iowa: 3 Pig Farmers Tell Their Stories

The Day Derecho Hit Our Farm

 

Derecho Forces Evacuation of 25,000 Pigs After Winds Rip Barns Apart

Iowa Farmers Assess Damage from Rare Windstorm

Our Derecho Story: The Trees Saved Our Pigs

 

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