Hyperspectral remote-sensing service is in operation for precision farming

AUGUST 6--As of spring 2001 and for the duration of summer and fall, OKSI, a small business specializing in hyperspectral imaging for remote sensing, ground, and laboratory applications, is producing real-time data products for a precision farming-technology project sponsored by NASA as part of the joint NASA/USDA/Grower project known as Ag2020.

AUGUST 6--As of spring 2001 and for the duration of summer and fall, OKSI, a small business specializing in hyperspectral imaging for remote sensing, ground, and laboratory applications, is producing real-time data products for a precision farming-technology project sponsored by NASA as part of the joint NASA/USDA/Grower project known as Ag2020. OKSI designs and builds custom instruments, develops algorithms for data exploitation, and is also involved in the development of new applications for the technology.

The data are collected during weekly flights over a commercial farm in the San Joaquin Valley, CA, and an experimental USDA field. Three primary sensors are operated from a Cessna 206 aircraft: a multispectral imager simulating bands 2, 3, and 4 of LandSat, a thermal infrared imager, and a visible to near-infrared hyperspectral imaging (HSI) sensor. When available, Ikonos imagery is also utilized for the project.

Data are processed and converted to products used by the grower and the farm consultants in support of their crop-management activities. The data products are posted within 24 to 48 hours of flight on a dedicated Web site (www.ag2020.net), allowing immediate access to the information. The product-development work has been primarily focused on cotton-production management.

The technology-evaluation project is conducted in cooperation with the USDA Agriculture Research Station in Shafter, CA, the University of California (UC) Agriculture Extension Station in Kings County, various other UC investigators, and Azcal Management Corp., the owner of the commercial farm. Funds are provided by the NASA Earth Science Applications Directorate and the cotton-industry consortia.

The project is geared to demonstrate the utility and feasibility of real-time remote-sensing services for incorporation in daily crop-management decisions at the farm. Successful use of the data has allowed the grower to optimize irrigation schedules and apply nutrients and other chemicals on a spatially variable basis, targeting only areas that require such treatment, resulting in significant cost savings.

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