CubeSats deliver new insights into agricultural water use at daily and 3 m resolutions

Earth observation has traditionally required a compromise in data collection. That is, one could sense the Earth with high spatial resolution occasionally; or with lower spatial fidelity regularly. For many applications, both frequency and detail are required. Precision agriculture is one such example, with sub-10 m spatial, and daily or sub-daily retrieval representing a key goal. Towards this objective, we produced the first cloud-free 3 m daily evaporation product ever retrieved from space, leveraging recently launched nano-satellite constellations to showcase this emerging potential. Focusing on three agricultural fields located in Nebraska, USA, high-resolution crop water use estimates are delivered via CubeSat-based evaporation modeling. Results indicate good model agreement (r2 of 0.86–0.89; mean absolute error between 0.06 and 0.08 mm/h) when evaluated against corrected flux tower data. CubeSat technologies are revolutionizing Earth observation, delivering novel insights and new agricultural informatics that will enhance food and water security efforts, and enable rapid and informed in-field decision making.

Aragon, B., Ziliani, M. G., Houborg, R., Franz, T. E., & McCabe, M. F. (2021). CubeSats deliver new insights into agricultural water use at daily and 3 m resolutions. Scientific Reports, 11(1). doi:10.1038/s41598-021-91646-w

The King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) supported the research reported in this publication. Funding for these AmeriFlux core sites was provided by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. This research was a contribution from the Long-Term Agroecosystem Research (LTAR) network. LTAR is supported by the United States Department of Agriculture. T.E.F. acknowledges the financial support of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Hatch project #1009760 and project # 2019-67021-29312.

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