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Technology Transforming Forest Management

Nifa Author
Margaret Lawrence, Writer-Editor
Forests are not necessarily top of the mind when people think of Indiana. Forested area covers only about 20% of Indiana. But Purdue University researchers are working to ensure the state’s forests are prepared to withstand the challenges of climate change.

Supported by funding from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Purdue launched the Integrated Digital Forestry Initiative (iDiF). The initiative’s goal is to develop digital forestry tools to save time, money and achieve a deeper understanding of a vital natural resource.

Daniel Cassidy, a national program leader in NIFA’s Institute of Bioenergy, Climate and Environment, said that Purdue’s research efforts have potential to transform conventional forest management methods.

“Purdue’s work is truly an innovative approach to forestry,” Cassidy said. “This team is leading a transition to data-driven, AI-supported precision forest management, and their multi-disciplinary approach will contribute to their success.”

Through iDiF, Purdue is bringing together experts from a variety of disciplines including forestry, entomology, ecology, engineering, aviation technology, remote sensing, machine learning, data analysis and visualization, robotics and geospatial information retrieval.

"We must improve the sustainability and resilience of our forests, which are critical to the environment, our economy and our quality of life," said Sdonglin Fei, who leads the initiative. "We're bringing together expertise in agriculture, engineering and science to create tools to better measure, monitor and manage forests of all sizes throughout the United States."

NIFA is providing support to iDiF through both McIntire-Stennis Act capacity funding and an Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) competitive grant.

Current NIFA Supported Projects

  • Tree Inventory with Aerial Remote Sensing
  • Terrestrial Mobile LiDAR for High Resolution Forest Inventory
  • Urban Forest Inventory Using Artificial Intelligence
  • Precision Management
  • Wood and Bark ID
  • Monitor Stress Epidemiology

Learn more about these projects at the iDiF website.

Photo: Left image of individual exploring a forest. Right image of sunlight breaking through forest trees. Images courtesy of Adobe Stock. 

Farm Bill Priority Areas
Agriculture systems and technology;
Bioenergy, natural resources, and environment
U.S. States and Territories
Indiana
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