The integration of modern technology in agriculture has garnered significant attention over the past decade. Both governmental and private entities, often collaborating through Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs), have made concerted efforts in this domain.

However, a recent discrepancy of a staggering 10 million tonnes between estimated wheat production in agriculture and actual trade figures has underscored the pressing need for more precise and scientific methods in various aspects of agriculture, ranging from yield estimations to on-farm activities.

Many efforts are underway to increase overall production to feed the burgeoning population by increasing efficiency in production such as high-intensity agriculture, efficient water use, and high-yield varieties. The government of India is actively considering the establishment of the ‘India Digital Ecosystem of Agriculture’ (IDEA) framework. This framework will serve as the blueprint for the federated farmers' database, known as AgriStack. Being developed by integrating farmer data from various existing schemes, it will help digitally link them with land records.

That said, with agricultural production inherently tied to the seasonal cycles of crop growth and with continuous change in today’s climatic conditions impacting the yield, it is the need of the hour for agricultural monitoring systems to operate in real-time to maximise output.
Herein, remote sensing technology emerges as a crucial tool to achieve this objective.

By utilising sensors to gather data about the earth's surface from a distance, remote sensing has gained prominence in agriculture. It offers invaluable insights that empower farmers to make well-informed decisions, ultimately enhancing agricultural efficiency and yield.

Here are the areas in agriculture where remote sensing can be used:

Soil Mapping: Soil mapping is one of the most common yet most important uses of remote sensing. Through soil mapping, farmers are able to tell which soils are ideal for which crops. Which soil requires irrigation and which ones do not. This information helps in precision agriculture.

Crop yield estimation and modelling: With crop yield forecast being the most difficult issue, an accurate crop yield estimation model can help farmers decide on what to grow and when to grow. Simulating the response of a crop to the climatic conditions, water & nutrient requirements, it enables one to get an insight on the expected crop production and yield over a given area basis how much of the crop needs to be harvested under specific conditions.

Assessment of Crop Damage and Crop Progress: Similar to last year, this year too few cotton-sown areas in the state of Punjab were impacted by pink bollworm infestation. In such cases of crop damage or crop progress, remote sensing technology can be used to penetrate the farmland and determine exactly how much of a given crop has been damaged and the progress of the remaining crop on the farm. This saves time and energy in crop damage estimates that can delay the insurance or compensation for the farmer’s loss.

Crop Acreage estimation: Remote sensing has played an important role in crop identification based on the canopy spread and helps in determining the crop acreage more accurately in real-time than traditional census or surveys. This helps in better planning and market preparedness. Additionally, it also enables judicious decision-making during any crop failure event, thereby ensuring proper crop insurance.

Soil Moisture Estimation: Remote sensing provides soil moisture data, which helps in determining the type of crop that can be grown in the soil. It can also help in irrigation scheduling and can minimise water wastage in agriculture and at the same time identify potential drought-prone areas.

Water Resources Mapping: Remote sensing is instrumental in the mapping of water resources that can be used for agriculture over a given farmland. Through remote sensing, farmers can determine where water resources are available for use over a given land and whether the resources are adequate.

The use of remote sensing tools in agriculture has the potential to be a game-changer for Indian farmers. This information helps assess crop health, detect diseases, and optimise irrigation. This data-driven approach enhances yield prediction and resource allocation, contributing to a more efficient and sustainable food production system, crucial for feeding the ever-increasing population of the nation.

(Rajavelu NK is the CEO of Crop Protection Business, Godrej Agrovet Limited)

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