Application of Remote Sensing Technologies in India

Remote sensing techniques play an important role in Crop identification; Acreage and production estimation; Disease and stress detection; Soil and water resources etc.  Remote sensing applications have become very important for making macroeconomic decisions related to food security, poverty alleviation and sustainable development in the country.

Historical Bits

The use of remote sensing for national development started in India comparatively earlier than other developing countries. The first experiment that used remote sensing was on coconut root–wilt disease in Kerala using colour-infrared aerial photography in late 1960s. Another early programme was Agriculture Resources Inventory & Survey Experiment (ARISE) in 1975. After that many other programmes were started such as Experimental Studies on Crop Discrimination in 1970s; Estimation of area & production of major crops at State level in 1980s, Launch of FASAL in 1990s etc.

For your preliminary examination, please note the below facts:

  • National Remote Sensing Agencies (NRSA) was established in 1975 primarily for providing operational aerial survey services.
  • Launch of two experimental earth observation satellites Bhaskara I and II (1979, 1981) provided the necessary experience in handling a total remote sensing system on an experimental level. These satellites carried cameras and SAMIR (Satellite Microwave Radiometer).
  • India received a tremendous boost with the launch of Indian Remote Sensing Satellite-1A (IRS 1A) in March 1988. This carried two cameras LISS-I and LISS-II. A series of IRS satellites were launched in 1990s.  Today, IRS system is the largest constellation of remote sensing satellites for civilian use in operation today in the world, with 12 operational satellites.
  • In 1990s, concept of Forecasting Agricultural output using Space, Agro-meteorology and Land based observation (FASAL) developed. Its main objective was to collect Monsoon data through remote sensing, economic data and monitoring of crops when growing.
  • To provide real-time information about the prevalence and severity of droughts at district and sub-district level in 13 key agricultural states, the ISRO’s National Remote Sensing Centre, Hyderabad launched a National Agricultural Drought Assessment and Monitoring System (NADAMS). It prepared fortnightly reports on droughts by using advanced wide-field sensors of satellites like Resourcesat-1, IRS 1C and IRS 1D.

At present, the NDA government is preparing to deploy satellites to digitally map each farmland in the country, data from which will be used to provide tailor-made crop insurance cover to farmers. The idea is to digitally map all of India’s farming plots using GPS readings and offer farmers yield-based insurance products, which will cover their individual risks. At present, crop insurance mainly covers the loans taken by a farmer and not his farming activities.

Autonomous farming

Autonomous Farming refers to the use of machine for seeding, crop sensing, harvesting, weeding and other follow-up operations by using remote sensing and GIS.  Seeding is done by an attached seeding drill controlled by GPS.  Crop growth, soil moisture and weeds are continuously noted via the remote sensing appliances.  Autonomous & coordinated harvesting and grain collection machinery.  The automation of agriculture is still in research level in many developed countries (US, Australia).

Major Applications of Remote sensing in Agriculture

Some of the specific applications are as follows:

  • Soil Properties Sensing: Soil Texture, Structure, and Physical Condition Soil Moisture; Soil Nutrients.
  • Crop Sensing: Plant Population; Crop Stress and Nutrient Status.
  • Yield Monitoring Systems: Crop Yield; Harvest Swath Width; Crop Moisture:
  • Variable Rate Technology Systems: Fertilizer flow; Weed detection, pressure sensors

Mahalanobis National Crop Forecast Centre (MNCFC)

Indian Government had launched two programmes viz. FASAL and NADAMS in 1990s and early 2000s. In 2012, both of these were merged and were put in control of Mahalanobis National Crop Forecast Centre (NCFC) in New Delhi. This works as an integrated centre to provide estimates of crop output and assess the drought situation in the country through latest technologies. MNCFC prepares in-season forecasts for major crops such as rice, wheat, sugarcane and maize.

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