Crop Tools Today
  Landsat of York, Nebraska  
Today's farmers can use computerized systems to help them chart the different soils and moisture on their farmland. Then, they decide what crops to plant, what seeds to use, and how much fertilizer to apply. The Geographic Information System (GIS) is a computer system that records, stores, and analyzes information in the form of maps, photographs sent from satellites, text, and numbers. This information is stored in huge computer databases. A computer operator can create layered images of a geographic area, showing land features such as rivers and hills, as well as human structures like roads and bridges. GIS can show different kinds of soil in an area, along a river for example, or trace the location of electric power lines.

Today, scientists and engineers, state and county government, fire and police departments, farmers and conservation workers can use the information from the Geographic Information System. Many scientific and engineering projects such as roads and bridges can be "tried out" as a model on a computer before construction. GIS started to grow during the 1980s as business and government found ways to use the system. By the early 1990s, thousands of GIS systems were operating in the U.S. and around the world.