Podcast

Sending flocks of tiny satellites out past Earth orbit and solving the irrigation efficiency paradox

Science Podcast
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John A. Kelley, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

Small satellites—about the size of a briefcase—have been hitching rides on rockets to lower Earth orbit for decades. Now, because of their low cost and ease of launching, governments and private companies are looking to expand the range of these “sate-lites” deeper into space. Host Sarah Crespi talks with Deputy News Editor Eric Hand about the mods and missions in store for so-called CubeSats.

And our newest podcast producer Meagan Cantwell interviews Quentin Grafton of Australian National University in Canberra and Brad Udall of Colorado State University in Fort Collins about something called the “irrigation efficiency paradox.” As freshwater supplies dry up around the world, policymakers and farmers have been quick to try to make up the difference by improving irrigation, a notorious water waster. It turns out that both human behavior and the difficulty of water measurement are plaguing water conservation efforts in agriculture. For example, when farms find they are using less water, they tend to plant ever-more-water-intensive crops. Now, researchers are trying to get the message out about the behavioral component of this issue and tackle the measurement problem, using cheap remote-sensing technology, but with water scarcity looming ahead, we have to act soon.

This week’s episode was edited by Podigy.

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[Image: John A. Kelley, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service; Music: Jeffrey Cook]