Crops in Argentina were taking a beating in February 2009. According to reports from the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), a severe drought in southern South America had severely affected corn, cotton, and soybean crops in the country. Total rainfall since December was far below normal in most areas, and the rain that did fall often did not coincide with key points in crops’ growing cycles. Dust storms occurred in January and again in February, despite some late-to-arrive rains.
This pair of natural-color (photo-like) images from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite contrasts 2009 conditions (top) in southern Buenos Aires province with the conditions in 2008 (bottom), a more normal year. The province is one of the country’s major corn-growing areas. The difference in overall greenness is dramatic. In 2008, the area was a checkerboard of lush green, a sign that crops were healthy. In the 2009 image, the landscape was pale green and tan, reflecting the struggle that natural and cultivated vegetation was having with the hot, dry summer.
According to FAS analyst Denise McWilliams, 2009 crop production was 30-60 percent of what it was in 2008, depending on the crop. Drought stress made the corn crop susceptible to insect pests, and in some fields, farmers simply baled the stunted corn crop for use as livestock forage. Likewise, extreme heat and drought struck the season’s first soybean crop during its flowering and seed pod development phase. Meanwhile, the drought and heat caused wide differences in the height and maturity level of cotton crops, even within the same field, which was expected to complicate the harvest.
- USDA Foreign Agricultural Service Office of Global Analysis. (2009, February). World Agricultural Production. (pdf) Accessed February 23, 2009.
NASA images by Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team. Caption by Rebecca Lindsey, with input provided Denise McWilliams, USDA Foreign Agricultural Service.
- Terra - MODIS