November 29, 2011
Can we feed the world? Crisis looms when we witness soaring international food prices since 2008 and, what’s worse, severe food shortage occurred at Horn of Africa this year. Among initiatives to boost food security, one solution is to utilize remote sensing technology for agricultural monitoring at regional and global levels.
Remote sensing technology is applied in agricultural monitoring to enhance capabilities in the grain production predicting, famine and food security early warning. Its related activities include: mapping and monitoring of changes in distribution of cropland area and associated cropping systems; monitoring of agricultural production leading to accurate and timely reporting of national agricultural production statistics, accurate forecasting of shortfalls in crop production, and reduction of risk & increased productivity at a range of scales; development of early warning systems for famine, enabling timely mobilization for food aid.
This technology has been extensively applied to China’s agricultural remote sensing monitoring. The CAS (Chinese Academy of Sciences) China CropWatch System (CropWatch) was developed by the Institute of Remote Sensing Applications (IRSA), CAS in 1998, covering China as well as 30 main grain producing countries around the world. It was used to monitor crop growing conditions, crop acreage and crop production, drought, crop plantation structure and multiple cropping indexes.
WU Bingfang, head of Lab for Agriculture and Environment at IRSA, is responsible for operating this system. His team publishes 7 monthly bulletins and 20 newsletters every year, which are used by National Statistics Bureau of China to improve agriculture statistics since 2004. With years of experience in crop production estimation, WU’s team notices a fact that the volatile international food price, though influenced by speculation, is fundamentally subject to the fluctuation of food supply. Their information on global grain production has become an important information source for judging the development tendency of international food price.
CropWatch, as well as USDA Foreign Agricultural Service’s Crop Explorer, European Commission’s Monitoring of Agriculture with Remote Sensing, and U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s Global Information and Early Warning System, constitute four systems for global agricultural monitoring. It has integrated into Group on Earth Observations (GEO) international cooperation program on global agricultural remote sensing monitoring.
For more information on how governments and international organizations collaborate to boost food security through earth observation, please refer to “ Food Security through Earth Observation”, which was written by WU Bingfang, together with his GEO collaborators, Chris Justice at the University of Maryland, and Pascal Kosuth at Cemagref-CIRAD-ENGREF, and was published on Space News on November 2, 2011.