We all know that the SMAP satellite measures soil moisture. But, how does knowing our planet's soil moisture help us in understanding agriculture's reaction to it?
SMAP monitors soil moisture and provides critical information for drought early warning. In fact, a deficit in the amount of moisture in the soil defines agricultural drought. SMAP's measurements will come into play because researchers forecast a threefold increase in drought frequency in many regions of the world by the end of the 21st Century. History shows that a sustained drought can result in crop failure, deaths of livestock, and ultimately deaths of people. There is an economic impact as well. It is estimated that the 2012 drought in the Midwest led to harvest failures costing an estimated $30 billion.
SMAP soil moisture information is critical for healthy plant growth, and will help improve crop yield forecasts and irrigation planning around the world. By indirectly monitoring global food production, SMAP will improve targeting of humanitarian food assistance. Studies estimate that climate change will increase the number of undernourished people worldwide in 2080 by 5-26%.