May 14, 2002 - Space Age Farming

It's been almost 33 years, but we still remember those dramatic pictures of Neil Armstrong's footprint on the moon. These days, NASA is leaving another kind of footprint, in Louisiana farm fields.

Agriculture students from LSU comb a cotton field in East Central Louisiana, looking for bugs. It's the first step toward helping farmers cope with rising costs, falling income and global competition, help from an unexpected source. At NASA's Stennis Space Center they have just the thing for the troubled Louisiana farmer. NASA researcher Rodney McKellip explains, "the group that I work at NASA is charged with taking these technologies that have traditionally been used in science and finding what practical benefits they may have for the taxpayer." In this case, helping a Louisiana farmer track profit-eating bugs.

Here's how it's done. A NASA plane flies over the cotton fields, and spots the insects with space-age cameras. Farmer Jay Hardwick says, "really we're able to look at our property and our land and our crop in a way that we haven't had possible before." An eagle-eye look at the cotton farm is used to make computerized maps, row-by-row, almost plant-by-plant, a map to fight bugs. NASA not only has its head in the stars, but it's feet in Louisiana soil.