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USDA, Russian scientists develop interactive crop map

USDA, Russian scientists develop interactive crop map

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture and St. Petersburg State University have partnered to create a website that offers geographic distributions of crops and threats to them.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and St. Petersburg State University have partnered to create a new website that offers geographic distributions of 100 crops, 640 crop threats and 560 wild crop relatives in Russia and neighboring countries.

The maps, which are downloadable, allow layering of data -- so scientists can overlay, say, major wheat production centers with concentrations of Russian wheat aphids, a crop pest.

The idea behind the Internet-based, bilingual maps, collectively called AgroAtlas, is to promote world food security -- with specific attention to nations who were a part of the former Soviet Union.

Many of these countries seek to broaden their agricultural base, and the maps intend to be one technological tool to achieve that. They can determine where foreign crops can successfully grow and, on the flip side, identify foreign pests, pathogens or weeds that could harm local crops.

Led by USDA plant geneticist Stephanie Greene and St. Petersburg State University scientist Alexandr Afonin, the project also aims to help students learn how to use geographic information system, or GIS, resources.

Interestingly, AgroAtlas maps of climate, environment and other data can be integrated with computer models to assess the potential impact of climate change on the future distribution of crops, pests, and crop wild relatives.

The project first came about as a successful proposal made in 2003.

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Andrew Nusca

Editor Emeritus

Andrew Nusca is editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor for ZDNet. Previously, he worked at Money, Men's Vogue and Popular Mechanics magazines. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and New York University. He is based in New York but resides in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure