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Stanford researchers measure African farm yields using high-resolution satellites

A female farmer stands in a maize field in rural Kenya.

The research focused on an area in western Kenya where there many smallholder farmers who grow maize on small, half-acre or one-acre lots.

Stanford School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences
Aug 5 2017

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Research Spotlights

Stanford researchers have developed a new way to estimate crop yields from space, using high-resolution photos snapped by a new wave of compact satellites.

The approach, detailed in the February issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could help estimate agricultural productivity and test intervention strategies in poor regions of the world where data are currently extremely scarce.

“Improving agricultural productivity is going to be one of the main ways to reduce hunger and improve livelihoods in poor parts of the world,” said study coauthor Marshall Burke, a Stanford Center on Global Poverty and Development faculty affiliate and an assistant professor of Earth system science at Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences. “But to improve agricultural productivity, we first have to measure it, and unfortunately this isn’t done on most farms around the world.”

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This article was first published on February 17, 2017.