In January, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) initiated an important new research project that could bring significant benefits to tea growing in Assam, India. Assam has experienced a number of unusually dry seasons in recent years.
NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission is aimed at mapping soil moisture across the world and identifying areas where soil is frozen and where it is not. A space vehicle is measuing the moisture in the soil’s top five centimeters which is critical information for the agricultural industry.
Scientist R.M. Bhagat of the Tocklai Tea Research Institute (TRI) told media that he believes it will help with planning irrigation and fertilization and other farming strategies that will promote long-term growing success in Assam. Appropriate water conditions offer protective factors for plants against pests.
The TRI is one of 50 institutions who will have access to NASA’s data beginning in September.
Assam currently produces more than half of the country’s total tea output.
This project isn’t even the only tea research going on in space right now. The European Space Agency is currently studying biofilms like the “symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast” (SCOBY) that is used to make kombucha. Space scientists want to know if these biofilms may be elsewhere in space. Researchers will know more when the samples return to earth next summer.