New Online Tools Aid Weather, Crop Forecasting

ZedX, Inc. developer of web-based, agro-meteorological, decision support services, and Infoterra, an EADS Astrium company, a global provider of geo-information products and services announce the release of CropForecaster.

CropForecaster offers a comprehensive set of online products including maps and summary statistics of crop status. Products include information on crop stage, acreage, condition, and expected yields. This information is updated on a daily basis thereby quantifying the impacts of each day’s weather observations and forecasts. The accuracy and comprehensiveness of the service provides new opportunities and advantages to managers responsible for decisions associated with the many dimensions of today’s complex food supply chain, according to the partnering companies.

Major efforts to use satellite spectral and weather data to improve the accuracy of national-scale crop monitoring and forecasting began in 1974 with the LACIE-AgRISTARS – joint projects of NASA, NOAA, and the USDA. In the ensuing 35 years, there have been a number of efforts to incorporate crop imagery with agro-meteorological models. To date, the most successful efforts have involved vegetative indices (such as the normalized vegetative difference index, NVDI) correlated with surface weather data and crop development. Despite these best efforts, the statistical uncertainties associated with growing-season estimates of critical crop production components (acres, yields, stages, quality, etc.) remain nearly the same as in the past.

Infoterra and ZedX have independently offered evolutionary advances that overcome the limitations of many of today’s efforts to simulate and predict the components of crop production during the growing season. Infoterra has developed a deep know-how in satellite imagery processing to retrieve biophysical crop variables like biomass and leaf areas, which directly relate to agronomic properties. This relationship provides a major advantage over traditional vegetative indices. ZedX, Inc. has been a long time developer of weather, crop, and pest models in support of decision making in field research, precision agriculture, and government monitoring programs. Corresponding implementations of these technologies are resulting in management efficiencies in crop production and new monitoring strategies for invasive pests.

In 2008, Infoterra and ZedX scientists immediately realized that their combined strengths in imagery and modeling could complement each other relative to solving the scale-related uncertainties in the estimates of crop production components. This realization resulted in a partnership to undertake research and development to find a solution that addresses the shortcomings of earlier attempts. The results of this joint effort is embodied in the CropForecaster service.

CropForecaster provides frequent updates, data scale and resolution, product delivery, and reporting functionality. The timely information outputs from the service benefit a much broader range of uses than ever before. These uses begin with the supply chain and risk management of crop inputs all the way through to planting, projections of market values and yields throughout the growing season, analysis of gene performance, scheduling of grain drying, and global transportation of goods.

For more information visit the CropForecaster web site.

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