NASA: Drought Doubles Idle California Farmland

A report released by NASA this week indicated that the amount of farmland in California left idle has more than doubled in just four years due to the state’s punishing drought.

More than 1.03 million acres of farmland have been left idle this year in the agriculture-rich Central Valley, according to the report, which NASA conducted in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Geological Survey and the California Department of Water Resources.

The idled farmland represents 15 percent of the 7 million acres of irrigated farmland in the Central Valley, and marks an increase of more than double the amount of farmland left idle in 2011, the year that the drought began in earnest in the Golden State.

The data allow scientists and researchers the ability to see which parts of the state have been hardest hit by the drought and which areas have been more resilient to water shortages, according to NASA senior research scientist Patrick Melton.

“As the summer season starts to wind down and the 2015 California water year comes to an end, the data illustrates the toll the drought has taken on California agriculture,” Melton said in a statement.

According to the report, the areas hit hardest by fallowed acreage include Kings and Kern counties, and the west side of the San Joaquin Valley in Fresno.

The report is said to be the first to use satellite data to measure the impact of the drought on agricultural production in California.


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