NASA Harvest and COVID-19

What is NASA Harvest?

NASA Harvest is NASA’s Food Security and Agriculture Program. Its mission is to enable and advance adoption of satellite Earth observations by public and private organizations to benefit food security, agriculture, and human and environmental resiliency in the US and worldwide. This is accomplished through a multidisciplinary and multisectoral Consortium of leading scientists and agricultural stakeholders, led and implemented by the University of Maryland.

Why does NASA care about COVID-19?

The importance of agriculture in NASA’s Earth sciences activities is specified in the Strategic Plan, which notes “NASA’s Earth science data helps to advance U.S. National interests in agriculture by providing food security for the Nation, economic growth, products to trade internationally, and jobs here at home” among other benefits of Earth Observations (EO) for agriculture. This dashboard builds upon that legacy by combining NASA EO assets with trade and policy data to build a more complete view of the interconnected global agriculture industry.

This work also supports the NASA Applied Sciences goal of bridging the gap between NASA Earth science and the information needs of users and decisionmakers, by providing a novel collection of valuable datasets which are not often visualized together (e.g., COVID-19 case counts, trade flows, and crop conditions). This information allows decisionmakers to analyze potential production shortfalls and surpluses, trade disruptions, and policy impacts at global scales simultaneously rather than relying on a variety of sources. The approach is also in line with the NASA Earth Science program’s goal of improving understanding of Earth through open access to data and software.

How does COVID-19 affect agriculture?

Agriculture and its related industries, which contribute over $1 trillion to the GDP and 11% of the workforce in the United States alone (USDA ERS, 2020), are not spared the effects of the spread of COVID-19. Farms growing crops with high labor demands, such as rice, fruits, and vegetables, are suffering from labor shortages – the result of travel restrictions – and falling demand – the result of near-shuttering of the restaurant industry and school closures (Schrotenboer, 2020). This has, in turn, resulted in a calculated choice by many farmers to forego harvesting crops because the cost of labor exceeds the value of the crop (Charles, 2020).

Currently, the production of commodity crops such as corn, wheat, and soybeans are less affected due to the level of mechanization in their planting, maintenance, and harvesting. However, the real extent of the impacts of the pandemic on the next production cycle in the northern hemisphere is unknown. These impacts are important for crop exporting countries as they affect the logistics of moving crops off farms and further down the supply chain (to exporters, processors, importers). Further uncertainty stems from the implementation of export restrictions by several countries (Glauber et al., 2020; Laborde, 2020), COVID-19 outbreaks in and around port cities (Dong, Du and Gardner, 2020), and fluctuations in commodities pricing (Higgins, 2020). While global food markets are currently well-balanced, it is crucial to monitor the development of crop conditions globally. In developing countries, the health crisis could lead to acute economic crises and threaten food security as household income drops (AMIS, 2020).


Where can I find additional data?

Several NASA Harvest partners have contributed to this dashboard and/or maintain their own organizational dashboards. Please see the About page for more information.

Can I contribute my own data to this work?

Please contact the developers, we would be happy to discuss adding additional data to the dashboard.

Who can I contact for more information?

Please use the contact form and someone from the development team will be in touch.