Agriculture

Remote sensing for analyzing smallholder farm yields

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Science  17 Mar 2017:
Vol. 355, Issue 6330, pp. 1170
DOI: 10.1126/science.355.6330.1170-a

Remotely sensed estimates of nutrient value reveal differences among local farms in Kenya.

PHOTO: HAILEY TUCKER/ONE ACRE FUND

Smallholder farmers are key to local food security, but their productivity, or lack thereof, is buried when agricultural statistics are discussed at the scale of regions and nations. Household surveys are hampered by errors in self-reporting, and on-the-ground field surveys are constrained by limited personnel. Burke and Lobell combined high-resolution satellite imagery (at the scale of 1 m) with ground-truthed data to estimate yields from maize agriculture in western Kenya, where many of the fields are less than half an acre in size and irregularly shaped. Measurements of canopy greenness captured evidence of nutrient deficiencies. Productivity differed by as much as threefold even between neighboring plots, suggesting opportunities for yield improvement through changes in field management.

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 10.1073/pnas.1616919114 (2017).

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