Farm Ireland

Tuesday 20 March 2018

NASA system to monitor Ireland's fodder status

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

Grassland measuring could be revolutionised in the next two years by the use of a NASA satellite that passes over Ireland every day.

Where once 'golf ball grazing' were the buzzwords in grass measuring circles, work by Teagasc scientist Stuart Green could see them replaced by 'Modis Terra Satellite' in the near future.

The Ashtown-based researcher has already mapped the 2013 fodder crisis using satellite imagery obtained from NASA and has predicted that within two years, Teagasc could be able to produce estimates of grass cover and offer up-to-date paddock management advice to farmers.

Speaking ahead of the Space Expo in Trinity College Dublin on Friday, Mr Green said that within a few more years, tillage farmers could be signing contracts with NASA and receive regular updates on crop yields and disease threats from its satellite.

The remote sensing specialist has been analysing vegetation cover in Ireland since early 2013 and has generated satellite imaging of the effects of the fodder crisis.

The Vegetation Anomaly Map shows the difference between current grass growth and compares it to the past 10 years. It will be used this autumn to estimate the amount of grass that could be saved as fodder for next winter.

"Within two years, we hope to be able to calculate the grass cover in tonnes per hectare and issue guidance to farmers based on the map. It could be used almost as an early warning system for grass production," he explained.

In simple terms, the technology works by taking a giant digital image of Ireland. This image includes near-infrared light that is invisible to the human eye but which plants reflect very strongly. The scientists then use an algorithm to convert the level of near infrared light into an estimate of grass cover on the land.

Also Read

Irish Independent