Free tool can help map land use, plan garden additions and more

UT Campus over time
These images show the development of part of the University of Tennessee campus in Knoxville over a 21-year period.

Google Earth is a simple, free software tool that can provide numerous benefits to home and landowners in Tennessee. It is a virtual map that allows users to enter any address or set of geographic coordinates (i.e., latitude and longitude) and view recent satellite imagery and aerial photos of that location.  It is similar to the web-based Google Maps application; however, Lori Duncan, a
University of Tennessee Extension crop sustainability specialist, says the Google Earth software has many beneficial features that are not included in the web-based Google Maps.

A basic, yet useful, feature of Google Earth is the ability to set and save markers on locations. Says Duncan, “This can be valuable to homeowners, rental property or land managers, crop consultants or anyone who oversees multiple locations. Information pertaining to each location, such as the name of a renter or what crop is grown, can also be saved along with the location,” she said.

Of particular interest to anyone who wants to see the history and usage of a specific locale, there is a historic imagery tool that allows you to view satellite images of the land dating back in time by simply using a slider bar to navigate through time,” Duncan added.

Duncan also sings the praises of a measurement tool that allows for the measurement of distances and lengths from an aerial view. “A possible application for this tool is to measure the length and width of a garden or lawn to determine the actual area, and subsequently the total seed and/or fertilizer needed for that particular area before you make a costly purchase.”

Yet another tool in the Google Earth “tool box” is a sunlight slider bar that allows users to view the sunlight or shade that a particular area experiences throughout the day due to topography. “This could be helpful particularly in planning a garden that requires afternoon shade or determining an ideal location for solar panels,” said Duncan.

There are countless useful, everyday applications for this free, user-friendly software. Interested users can download the free Google Earth software at the Google website.

UT Extension provides a gateway to the University of Tennessee as the outreach unit of the Institute of Agriculture. With an office in every Tennessee county, UT Extension delivers educational programs and research-based information to citizens throughout the state. In cooperation with Tennessee State University, UT Extension works with farmers, families, youth and communities to improve lives by addressing problems and issues at the local, state and national levels.


Download article