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Celebrating 50 years of agricultural remote sensing in India

Chris Justice co-chairs workshop

The joint International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ISPRS) – Group on Earth Observations Global Agricultural Monitoring Initiative (GEOGLAM) – Indian Society of Remote Sensing (ISRS) international workshop on “Earth Observations for Agricultural Monitoring” was held February 18-20th 2019 in New Delhi, India. This meeting marked the golden jubilee of agricultural remote sensing sciences in India, marking 50 years since the initial project of ISRO which in partnership with NASA studied the impact of coconut root wilt using airborne imagery.  It was noted by Dr. Shibendu Ray (Mahalanobis National Crop Forecast Centre), the workshop host, that it was fitting that the NASA Harvest program joined ISRO in celebrating this shared anniversary and to consider ongoing and potential future partnerships between NASA and ISRO in the area of agricultural remote sensing.

Since this initial research in 1969, significant advances have been made in India towards the application of remote sensing for agriculture within the areas of crop type delineation and area estimation, yield estimation, horticulture, crop risk assessment, and crop insurance among others, with a strong focus on national development. India has also become self-sufficient in earth observations for agriculture but due to ease of access and use, international satellite data continue to be widely used. Operational satellite-based systems have been established for monitoring crop production, horticulture and crop insurance and there is increasing uptake by a number of government agencies and national institutions. This three-day meeting comprised three plenary sessions, seven technical sessions and evening lectures from scientists and policy makers addressing relevant issues in Indian agriculture. Sessions included crop and drought monitoring, crop insurance and private sector use of remote sensing. The meeting was followed by a two-day training on remote sensing applications for agriculture and fire monitoring.

Workshop presenters

Dr. Christopher Justice, NASA Harvest science lead, was the guest of honor for the meeting and was asked to present a retrospective of remote sensing for agriculture and to speak of the ongoing activities of NASA Harvest and the international coordination efforts of the GEOGLAM initiative. Harvest Hub member, Christina Justice, presented on the GEOGLAM Crop Monitor for Early Warning initiative as a means of strengthening agricultural decision making through consensus based assessments and reducing uncertainty surrounding current crop conditions. The Crop Monitor program was noted as an important collaborative effort, exemplifying how real international coordination and collaboration can serve to strengthen agricultural monitoring at the national regional and global scales.  This theme was echoed throughout the meeting in the context of increasing India’s role in international initiatives.

A number of challenges and areas for continued research were identified during the meeting including farm scale crop insurance and assessments, commitment to high resolution EO data continuity and availability, high resolution microwave systems to overcome issues surrounding regions with high cloud cover during the growing season, and improvements in crop yield estimation and early warning of droughts and disaster.

Recommendations from the meeting included:

  • Furthering the application of remote sensing aimed at increasing resource use efficiency and income at the farm level and facilitating crop insurance.
  • Ensuring the long-term continuity of earth observations targeted for agriculture.
  • Filling observation gaps in the availability of high spatial resolution (2-5m) multispectral data and mutli-polarization SAR.
  • Establishing a set of standard remote sensing products and best practices for agriculture.
  • Pursuing a pathway to join the international space agencies in providing free and open satellite data.
  • Increasing participation in the international GEOGLAM initiative by contributing to capacity building and participating in JECAM.
News Date
Feb 25, 2019