Ashok Mishra of Clemson University is developing computer models that could help predict agricultural droughts and provide crucial information to farmers about how much water they will need to irrigate their crops.

Mishra, an assistant professor in the Glenn Department of Civil Engineering, pulls together data from soil-moisture sensors, NASA satellites and weather observations to create computer models.

Ashok Mishra

Ashok Mishra, left, works with a student in his office.

One of his goals is to develop a drought forecasting model that would help farmers anywhere in the United States predict how much water they will need one to 15 days into the future in order to improve agricultural sustainability.

Mishra and his team are midway through a two-year research project funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“The most important part is to help society by addressing water security,” he said. “The climate is unpredictable. Water security is vitally important in the formulation of policies for maintaining both the ecological and economic health of a region. Climate extremes are increasing in space and time and we don’t know how much rain is likely to come. These are the complexities that lead to several water security issues. To address these types of problems is very interesting and very challenging.”

A USDA press release recently cited Mishra’s project as an example of research that has been funded through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative’s Water for Agriculture Challenge Area.

“Clemson University is integrating remote sensing products and weather forecast information for farmers and growers to address the best products, increase agricultural drought indices, and develop an agricultural drought forecasting model to provide near real-time feedback,” according to the release.

James R. Martin, chair of the Glenn Department of Civil Engineering, congratulated Mishra.

“This is the sort of impact we need,” he said. “It speaks highly of Dr. Mishra’s work that the USDA chose his research as an example of funded projects.”

Mishra said there are four types of drought and that he is primarily focused on agricultural drought. It is usually defined as a period of declining soil moisture and consequent crop failure without any reference to surface water, such as lakes and rivers, he said.

The title of Misha’s project is “Towards Near Real-Time Agricultural Drought Monitoring and Forecasting.”