NASA data helps Bangladeshi farmers save water, money, energy

August 4, 2023 | Phys.Org |

Researchers from the University of Washington and Bangladesh's Ministry of Agriculture have collaborated to provide farmers with irrigation advisories using NASA data. Through their Integrated Rice Advisory System (IRAS), satellite data is used to help Bangladesh's rice farmers efficiently manage their water resources. With rice being a critical crop in the country, this initiative seeks to reduce the environmental and financial costs associated with irrigation during the dry season, which typically involves pumping groundwater and burning fuels. IRAS leverages specific satellite data, including information from the NASA/USGS Landsat mission and the Global Precipitation Measurement mission, to assess water use and precipitation in farming locations. Global Forecast System data provides precipitation forecasts, allowing the development of location-specific irrigation recommendations. The program, which reached over 10 million farmers across Bangladesh in June 2023, has the potential to reduce agricultural water waste by about 30%, decrease fuel consumption by 45%, save $115 million annually in fuel subsidies, and cut carbon emissions by 300,000 tons per year. The success of IRAS could lead to the development of similar programs for water-intensive crops worldwide.