WASHINGTON, April 18, 2012 -A tool cited by researchers in assessing crop acreage is still in its infancy, but shows the potential to offer analysts a big window on U.S. land use. The SOCC sited this tool in it’s petiton to USDA and EPA. Also, it’s a fun application that anybody with an internet connection can use.

To provide easier access to geospatial satellite products, USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) has launched CropScape, a program the agency calls “a new cropland exploring service.”

CropScape provides data users access to a variety of new resources and information, including the 2010 cropland data layer (CDL) just released in conjunction with the new service. CropScape offers advanced tools such as interactive visualization, web-based data dissemination and geospatial queries and automated data delivery to systems such as Google Earth.

CropScape delivers data visualization tools directly into the hands of the agricultural community without the need for specialized expertise, GIS software or high-end computers,” said Mark Harris, NASS Research and Development Division director. “This information can be used for addressing issues related to agricultural sustainability, land cover monitoring, biodiversity and extreme events such as flooding, drought and hail storm assessment.”

NASS produced the 2010 CDL using satellite image observations at 30-meter (0.22 acres per pixel) resolution and collected from two data-collecting satellites and then categorized using on-the-ground farm information, including field location, crop type, elevation, tree canopy and urban infrastructure. CDL products dating back to 1997 are also hosted by CropScape.

For more information on CropScape and CDLs, click HERE.

Meanwhile, scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey say they have developed a new method for mapping grasslands that demonstrate high potential for growing biofuel crops with relatively little energy input and environmental impact. Using remote sensing data from satellites, initial mapping identified detailed areas of the Greater Platte River Basin, which includes most of Nebraska and parts of adjacent states, that are best suited for producing cellulosic biofuel derived from switchgrass.

“This innovative scientific study takes some of the guesswork out of deciding whether it could be feasible to raise a potentially high value crop for biofuels on America’s grasslands,” said USGS Director Marcia McNutt. “Using non-food crops for fuel grown on land not now under cultivation is a low-impact step towards America’s energy independence.”

The maps of areas with high biofuel production potential were produced by combining satellite-derived vegetation data with weather data, soil types, terrain, and other physical data.


Original story printed in April 18th, 2012 Agri-Pulse Newsletter.

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