Agrometeorological (AgMet) Indicators from Earth Observations (EO) provide critical information to monitor and track crop conditions throughout a growing season. Improved monitoring capabilities and better understanding of crop conditions is especially important in areas where access to field information is limited and smallholder agriculture dominates. In some cases AgMet EO Indicators like NDVI, Precipitation, Temperature, Soil Moisture and Evaporative Stress Index among others are often the first and even the sole source of information on crop conditions, enabling rapid and large-scale assessment of potential weather-related impacts on agricultural production throughout the growing season. Recognizing the critical role that EO can play in early warning and early action in support of food security, NASA Harvest is partnering with the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) to enhance the uptake of EO products and tools by national and regional agencies, in addition to FAO country office and partner agencies in Southern Africa and globally.
On December 14th, NASA Harvest’s Christina Justice and Dr. Ritvik Sahajpal led a two hour training for over 100 colleagues from a wide array of institutions across Southern Africa. Participants included representatives from National Ministries and Regional Agencies in Southern Africa along with UN FAO, UN WFP and USAID FEWSNET Southern Africa offices. The training focused on the application of AgMet EO Indicators to in-season agricultural monitoring through the new publicly accessible AgMet graphics from NASA Harvest. These AgMet graphics provide an analysis-ready suite of the most up to date EO data products with the aim to enhance the information available to agricultural analysts, decision-makers, and end-users in order to facilitate crop condition monitoring in near real-time throughout the growing season. These graphics are now publicly available online through the AgMet Indicator Tool, eliminating the need for analysts to pre-process EO data and providing flexibility to access relevant information throughout the cropping season with updates provided every 10 days. This tool brings together a variety of Earth Observation (EO) data products on the sub-national scale, each of which provides valuable insights on in-season crop development and current crop conditions. Combined, the different EO data plots help tell the story of in-season crop conditions through the use of different climate, environmental, and vegetative variables.
The objective of this training was to enhance the uptake of EO data and tools into agricultural monitoring activities in the region to support national and regional agencies in their regular monitoring activities and to enhance the capacity for early warning and anticipatory action. The first half of this training provided an introduction to the individual EO indicator plots that make up the AgMet graphics - including NDVI, Precipitation, Temperature, Surface Soil Moisture and Evaporative Stress Index - and detailing their strengths and limitations as well as when and where to apply these indicators, giving attendees more confidence in using this information alongside their regular monitoring activities and assessments. The second half of the training focused on the application of EO indicators and the NASA Harvest AgMet graphics to seasonal analyses and assessments with a focus on Southern Africa. Lastly, the training applied this same information and analysis to the current 2022 main cropping season in Southern Africa and highlighted observations that trainees could make at this point in the season based on the most up to date EO indicators as provided through the AgMet Indicators.
“Through this training, we hope to increase the awareness and use of EO data in operational seasonal monitoring activities in the region by both specialists and non-specialists alike to support early detection of drought and enhance the anticipatory action communities’ ability to make data-informed decisions in support of food security,” noted Christina, the NASA Harvest Food Security and Early Warning Co-Lead.
Quraishia Merzouk, a representative of FAO Southern Africa and an FAO Early Warning Anticipatory Action Specialist, echoed these sentiments saying, “Ritvik and Christina provided us with technical insight on how EO indicators can be used for agricultural monitoring, which indicators best serve as early warning through their ability to monitor crop health and environmental stressors, and exactly at which point we need to activate anticipatory action initiatives. The explanations on how to use vegetative indices and agrometeorological data to monitor crop and infer crop health were the missing pieces of the puzzle for many uses of this data, and applying this learning during the plenary and group exercises really helped bring it all together! Many thanks to the training team!”
The AgMet Indicator graphics from NASA Harvest are making EO data more accessible to end-users, supporting the agricultural community’s capability to monitor crop conditions in near real time by providing a quick, effective, and easily-digestible means of interpreting massive amounts of global satellite data on croplands as the season progresses.
For more information on the Agmet Indicators see https://nasaharvest.org/news/nasa-harvest-geoglam-releases-new-agrometeorological-earth-observations-indicators-tool.