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Satellite Data Comes To The Ground Level
By Rebekah Ray
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- A new Mississippi State University research center should help Mississippi farmers use satellite technology to produce better crops.
The Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, MSU's agricultural research arm; the university's Engineering Research Center; and MSU's Forestry and Wildlife Research Center have joined resources to establish the Remote Sensing Technologies Center.
"There's tremendous potential for using remote sensing in agriculture. We're researching the development of new tools and new uses of those tools to help Mississippi farmers produce crops more economically," said Dr. David Shaw, MAFES weed scientist and center director.
MSU has developed some of the strongest agricultural research, Extension education and engineering programs in the nation. The ability to tie remote sensing technologies to the actual field data, known as "ground truthing," research of MAFES makes the remote sensing center a natural for MSU.
Mississippi produces all of the major U.S. crops, and 40 percent of the state's land is forested. Various soil types may exist even within one field and need to be managed independently rather than as a whole field. Remote sensing and satellite technologies help producers manage resources better and improve production rates.
The location of NASA's Stennis Space Center in Hancock County is an added plus for applying space technology to Mississippi crops. Additionally, the Mississippi Space Commerce Initiative at the center is focusing on bringing the remote sensing industry to Mississippi. Both of these organizations provide critical components of applications development, while their proximity to MSU is favorable for the development of the center's efforts.
"At the Remote Sensing Technologies Center, we're working closely with NASA and agricultural producers and distributors to develop commercial applications of remote technology," Shaw said. "These technologies are still cost-prohibitive for many producers.
"Our goal is to make satellite and airborne technology beneficial to keep more Mississippi producers in the business of farming," Shaw said.
Lidar, a technology similar to radar, has been used by the forestry industry to determine tree heights and types and to monitor various stressors such as insects.
When applied to agriculture, this same information can determine crop heights and can provide a recognizable pattern, or spectral map, to monitor crop stress, nutrient deficiencies, weed infestations, disease incidence and insect populations. Such information can even be used to time applications of defoliants and plant growth regulators in fields.
"There is tremendous potential in applying this technology to other crops," Shaw said.
More information on the Remote Sensing Technologies Center is available at www.rstc.msstate.edu.
Contact: Dr. David Shaw, (601) 325-9573