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NASA signs agreement with USDA to improve Ag research

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NASA and the US Department of Agriculture have signed an agreement to explore research gaps in the agricultural community that can be addressed through innovative Earth observation systems and technologies.

The memorandum of understanding brings together NASA’s experience with technology development and space-borne Earth science measurements and USDA’s scientific experience and knowledge of agricultural production, resource conservation, food security and safety, and forests and working lands.

Mike Cosh with the Agricultural Research Service says the collaboration also will address recommendations made in the 2017 National Academies’ Earth Science Decadal Survey.

“There are several different objectives outlined or covered by the MOU including microgreens on the (International) Space Station, remote sensing of soil moisture, and develop and induce sensors for understanding vegetation status,” said Cosh.

US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue recently said, “This partnership between USDA and NASA will bring together the best research, science, and technology we have to offer to help produce more food to feed the growing world.” Cosh says the partnership outlined in the agreement will benefit a variety of Earth and space-based goals.

“This is the third MOU that I’m aware of,” Cosh said. “It’s a long line of cooperation between USDA and NASA, especially with relation to soil moisture. About 40 years ago, USDA and NASA started working on different projects related to soil moisture.”

NASA program manager Bradley Doorn says plant-related research on the International Space Station, and other space or ground platforms, may lead to creative new ways to improve American and global agriculture, protect the environment, and contribute to better human health.

“To NASA, it’s important for us to see that one of the major impacts of our understanding of Earth’s system is agriculture,” Doorn said. “It impacts what we do, and what we do can certainly provide information and impact what agriculture can do in the future.”

In addition, the agencies collaborate to inspire youth in America to pursue careers in STEM and agriculture through various education and communication activities, such as the National Science and Technology Council’s Committee on STEM Education.

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