Since it’s first satellite launched in 1972, NASA and the USGS’ jointly operated Landsat program has transformed how we view the Earth and it’s changing surface. The Landsat program has allowed for changes in forest cover, polar ice caps, and urbanization around the world to be monitored and mapped for the last 50 years. One of the most impacted sectors has undoubtedly been agriculture.
Remote sensing of the Earth’s cropland has allowed researchers, farmers, and policymakers to monitor crops as they grow; pinpoint pest and disease damage; estimate drought damage; and create accurate production estimates. To celebrate Landsat’s 50th birthday, NASA Harvest sat down with a group of Landsat, remote sensing, and agricultural experts to discuss how Landsat revolutionized agricultural monitoring over the last half century and how it can continue driving agricultural improvements.
"The Landsat program relative to agriculture monitoring has been profound. The whole idea that Landsat could look at the condition of crops, the acreage of crops, seeing how they evolve, diseases... it just has been tremendously impactful for agriculture."
Professor Emeritus, University of Utah | Landsat Project Scientist, 1977–1989
"Landsat and agriculture go hand in hand because agriculture is a seasonal phenomenon, and you really need to monitor it closely over time."
Chief Scientist, Global Science & Technologies, Inc | NASA Landsat Project Scientist, 1992–2010
"Landsat's superpower is time travel... With phenology, vegetation phenology, and drought impacts, the time dimension is extremely important and more frequent data allows for higher accuracy and better characterization of agricultural phenomena."
Research Geographer, U.S. Geological Survey