New satellite-based algorithm pinpoints crop water use
Kaiyu Guan (left) and Chongya Jiang
Kaiyu Guan (left) and Chongya Jiang
Photo by Julie Wurth
March 23, 2020

URBANA, Ill. -- The growing threat of drought and rising water demand have made accurate forecasts of crop water use critical for farmland water management and sustainability. But limitations in existing models and satellite data pose challenges for precise estimates of evapotranspiration — a combination of evaporation from soil and transpiration from plants. The process is complex and difficult to model, and existing remote-sensing data can’t provide accurate, high-resolution information on a daily basis.

A new high-resolution mapping framework promises to do just that, around the globe. The framework is composed of a satellite-driven biophysical model integrating plants’ water, carbon, and energy cycles with a generic and fully automated fusion algorithm. Developed by researchers with the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Center for Advanced Bioenergy and Bioproducts Innovation (CABBI) at the University of Illinois, the framework was tested in 12 sites across the U.S. Corn Belt, and its estimates have achieved the highest performance reported in any academic study so far.

Read more from CABBI.

Keep Reading