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Researchers Using Satellite Data to Help Ranchers Better Manage Pastureland

Beef cattle grazing in a pasture.  Photo taken 11-01-16.
Beef cattle grazing in a pasture. Photo taken 11-01-16.

New research at University of Florida is working to develop a tool that uses data collected by satellites to help ranchers better manage their cattle grazing pastures.

Ranchers in Florida currently use about 4 million acres of pasture land to graze their cattle. This new research is using public data collected by NASA and European Union satellites to build a system that could tell them where and when to move their herds.

Dr. Chris H. Wilson, Global Change Agroecologist and Assistant Professor in the Agronomy Department at UF, is leading the project.

“The goal is to get as much vigorous pasture growth as they can and then have it be as efficiently utilized by the animals because that's the cheapest and most sustainable way is to feed them out on pasture.”

The satellites use sensors that work across the electromagnetic spectrum including infrared to collect massive amounts of data about vegetation types and levels.

Dr. Wilson says all that data will be combined with machine learning models, and ground truthing data collected the old fashioned way by going into pastures, to build a system that will someday provide prediction maps for ranchers.

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