NASA and USDA: A Bountiful Partnership
An expanding research partnership between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will help develop new ways of growing food on Earth and in space.
The agreement – known as a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) – will foster research between the two Federal agencies to share and apply space-based measurements of soil moisture, strengthen predictions of agricultural and climate trends, and support research on the carbon cycle and growing fruits and vegetables for spaceflight.
The MOU solidifies, expands, and continues a long-standing and symbiotic relationship between the two agencies, as each executes missions to measure and monitor the environment, conduct agricultural research, and extend data and information for use in agricultural decision-making. USDA brings to the partnership scientific expertise in agricultural production, resource conservation, food security and safety, as well as forests and working lands. NASA brings it’s unique capabilities in technology development and space-borne Earth system science research to improve life on earth and in space.
Under this MOU, four areas of focused research will be pursued initially by NASA and the USDA, including soil management, carbon science, microgreen plants, and fruit production. Two involve NASA’s Earth Science Division and two involve the agency’s Biological and Physical Sciences Division. Each of these NASA divisions will work closely with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service.
In regard to soil management research, NASA will provide the USDA with frequent global estimates of surface and root-zone soil moisture from a variety of satellite-based platforms and model simulations. In turn, NASA will rely on USDA measurement networks and research for development, calibration, and validation of satellite algorithms and potential products.
Moreover, collaboration on carbon cycle science will support research and education aimed at better understanding Earth’s various ecosystems to improve predictions.
Additionally, microgreen plant research will focus on using a controlled environment to optimize growth and nutritional value and exploring their potential as nutritious food supplements, which could be consumed by humans on Earth or in space.
Finally, NASA and USDA will also develop technologies for fruit production and plant propagation which could provide fresh food to supplement pre-packaged space food and offer aesthetic and psychological benefits to astronauts living in space.
To learn more about Biological and Physical Sciences (BPS) research initiatives, go to: https://science.nasa.gov/biological-physical
For more information about NASA’s Earth science activities, go to: https://science.nasa.gov/earth-science