IFB staff presents at NASA workshop

By Ashley Rice

What does the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), carbon and Illinois farmers have in common? Lauren Lurkins, Illinois Farm Bureau director of environmental policy, answered that question, and more, during her presentation at a recent NASA workshop.

The NASA Carbon Monitoring System (CMS) Applications Workshop was organized in a collaborative effort to discuss carbon Measurement, Reporting and Verification (MRV) efforts throughout the U.S.

At the conference, Lurkins presented “Illinois farmer views and uses of CMS data.” This presentation was made possible because of IFB’s collaboration with Kaiyu Guan, Ph.D., University of Illinois Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences assistant professor.

Guan’s research involves using satellite data, computational models, fieldwork and machine learning. It works to address how climate and human practices affect crop productivity, water resource availability and ecosystem functioning.

One of his current projects, “Improving the monitoring capability of carbon budget for the U.S. Corn Belt -- integrating multisource satellite data with improved land surface modeling and atmospheric inversion,” is funded by the NASA CMS initiative. Guan’s ultimate goal is to develop tools for farmers to use in making management decisions.

Carbon, the foundation for all life on Earth, is found in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, the most common greenhouse gas. When compared to the last 800,000 years, atmospheric carbon dioxide is at an all-time high.

Looking at agriculture, the carbon cycle impacts both yield and soil organic matter.

In her presentation, Lurkins emphasized farmers’ willingness to embrace new technologies and practices.

Practices many farmers are already implementing, including no-till and cover crops, help increase carbon sequestration.

In Guan’s research, satellite and remote sensing data are used to predict yield and soil organic matter on a field-by-field scale.

The workshop was organized in a collaborative effort to discuss carbon Measurement, Reporting and Verification (MRV) efforts throughout the U.S. (Photo by Edil Sepulveda Carlo, NASA)

“I think Dr. Guan’s project is unique,” Lurkins said. “It’s the only one in the Midwest, only one that has an agriculture focus and only one that is seeking to get farmers tools.”

Congress intended the funding for the NASA CMS project to engage both stakeholders and end users. Stakeholders range from county, state and federal government, nongovernment organizations and private industry. In the case of IFB, end users are farmers.

“I think that is a unique aspect, organizations like IFB can be at the table and tell the scientists these are some of our problems and this is the project we’re desiring,” noted Lurkins. “In fact, our IFB policy supports scientific research that would help get our farmers tools that help with issues such as nutrient run-off and carbon monitoring.”

As climate discussions increase at the state and federal levels, it will only become more critical that Illinois farmers continue to be a part of the discussion.

“The most important thing I’m taking away from the conference is that there are real opportunities to show farmers what NASA does for applied research and how it relates back to them,” Lurkins added.

Content for this story was provided by FarmWeekNow.com.

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