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Farmers wanted for citizen science project

University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers are developing a new way to measure crop yields from space using satellite remote-sensing technology. They recently used this innovative approach to create a set of annual crop yield maps for Wisconsin and the broader Midwest.

Aerial photo of the Marshfield Agricultural Research Station grounds by Sevie Kenyon/UW-Madison CALS.
Aerial photo of the Marshfield Agricultural Research Station grounds by Sevie Kenyon/UW-Madison CALS.

Now, however, the researchers need help “ground-truthing” their new maps. To do so, they are seeking farmer volunteers willing to act as citizen scientists by sharing real, field-level crop yield data—for soybean, corn and other crops—with the research team. Since this kind of data isn’t publicly available, the scientists must rely on farmer-submitted information to independently validate the accuracy of the maps.

The goal of the mapping effort is to learn how to use satellite remote-sensing technology to identify—and someday predict—threats and consequences to crop yields, including the impacts of insect pests, crop diseases and weather events such as drought, frost or hail.

For farmers willing to participate, the data submission process is simple, utilizing an easy-to-use web map application. The process involves identifying a location on a map, selecting the type of crop grown there and inputting the yield for that spot for a given year. The webpage for submitting data is at

The research team is currently seeking data for the years 2000 – 2015. They are hoping to receive responses from across Wisconsin, as well as the broader Midwest. All data provided will be kept confidential. Information about specific field locations and yields will never be shared or distributed. Instead, data will be pooled to help produce summary graphics that show the accuracy of the various yield maps.

For more information, please contact Phil Townsend, UW-Madison professor of forest and wildlife ecology, at or (608) 262-1669.

Other UW-Madison researchers involved in the mapping project include entomology professor Claudio Gratton and agronomy professor Chris Kucharik. UW-Madison and UW-Extension agronomist Shawn Conley is a key partner, helping to recruit participants.