Towards Ensuring Food Security
India's population is bound to cross 1.6 billion by 2050, which will demand doubling of our food grain production to ensure food security to all our people. There is inevitable need of increasing the food grain production and enhancing the agricultural productivity without degrading the environment. This necessitates focus on development of rain-fed areas, degraded lands, analysis of cropping system, proper monitoring and management of agricultural practices, assessing the impact of droughts and floods and so on. Since past many years, remote sensing technology is being effectively used in various aspects of agriculture crop management and planning in support of timely import/export decisions and enhancing food security.
Reliable information on crop acreages, timely forecasts and estimates of production & yields are important for the domestic and foreign trade as well as for various downstream and upstream activities.
Satellite data is analyzed with ground based information on agro-meteorology, market economics to estimate crop acreage and production for major crops in the country, much before the harvest. Operationally, four forecasts for wheat, three forecasts for kharif rice, winter potato and mustard, and one forecast for jute, rabi rice are provided on a regular basis. The availability of multiple In-season information has brought down the gaps between crop production and post-harvest technology, and facilitates decisions with regards to policy, pricing, procurements etc.
The operational methodology is now institutionalized by setting up Mahalanobis National Crop Forecasting Centre (MNCFC) under Ministry of Agriculture on April 23, 2012 in the Pusa campus, New Delhi. The centre has been established to carry out the crop monitoring activities and Agricultural Drought Assessment, which were hitherto done at SAC and NRSC under the Forecasting Agricultural output using Space, Agro meteorology and Land based observations (FASAL) and National Agricultural Drought Assessment and Management System (NADAMS)projects respectively. All the technologies developed by ISRO/ DOS are successfully transferred to MNCFC through training and capacity building, procedural manuals, master image database, reference database, statistical data analysis, relevant software tools and models for image interpretation.
Cropping System Analysis
Diversification of agriculture by crop rotation is a lesson learnt from the green revolution to stabilize the crop productivity levels. Satellite data provides vital information for cropping system analysis, which includes crop area, cropping pattern, crop rotation, crop calendar, crop vigour, soil type, etc. The cropping patterns of kharif, Rabi and summer season are combined to generate crop rotation (sequence in which crops are grown in the same field during an agricultural year).
The cropping patterns and crop rotation maps are utilized to assess the crop diversity (number of crops occupying a particular area) and cropping intensity (how many crops in succession are grown in a year in a single field).
The cropping system analysis was carried out in Jai Vigyan National Science & Technology Missions in Punjab and West Bengal, as these States are characterized by intensive agriculture.
Dry Land Productivity Improvement
There are few innovative and well-demonstrated remote sensing based operational projects in dryland areas – like participatory watershed development, integrated land and water resources management, cropping system analysis etc.
Watershed Development Programme is one of the major initiatives in the country towards conservation of soil and water resources in the rain fed area for enhancing agricultural production, ensuring livelihood security to rural people besides halting the depletion of natural resources. Space applications have been adapted to respond integrated development of land and water resources, and assess the improvements of the treated watershed.
The Integrated Mission for Sustainable Development (IMSD) mission, carried out for 25% of country’s geographical area, has significantly contributed towards soil and water conservation measures in drought prone and rain fed areas.
Under Sujala Watershed Development Programme in five drought-prone districts of Karnataka, the developmental plans drawn at micro-watershed level using satellite data has resulted in various visible impacts on ground viz., improvement in cropping intensity by 12%, decrease in fallow lands by 10-15%, increase in irrigated crops by 8-14% and improvement in crop yield by 6-15%.
Restoration of Land Capability
Land degradation implies temporary or permanent recession of land from a higher productivity to a lower status of productivity through deterioration of physical, chemical and biological aspects. Development of these degraded lands is one of the options available to increase food production in India as well as to restore the fragile ecosystem.
Remote Sensing techniques have been quite successful in identifying the ‘Hot Spot’ areas, which are undergoing fast degradation, diagnose the potential and constraints of the land and suggest suitable remedial measures for developing these degraded lands.
After the Green Revolution period, in mid 70’s, the Indo-Gangetic plains of Uttar Pradesh, historically the most fertile and irrigated agro-ecosystems in India, turned infertile. About 0.6 million hectare area in Indo-Gangetic plains was severely affected by water logging, soil salinity and alkalinity due to lack of the proper drainage.
Satellite data has helped to map the area under sodic soil and physical intervention like addition of gypsum & improvements of drainage networks has enabled reclaiming the degraded soils and restoring the productivity.
Under the “Assessment of Water logging and Salt and /or Alkaline Affected Soils in the Commands of all Major and Medium Irrigation Projects in the Country”, at the behest of Central Water Commission, the assessment and monitoring of salinity and waterlogged areas carried out in 1701 irrigation commands revealed that out of 88.89 million hectares, about 1.03 million hectares was salt affected and 1.71 million hectares was waterlogged due to unsustainable irrigation practices. The study provided the sound knowledge base for planning reclamation activities.
Bringing More Area under Agriculture
About 16% of the country is characterized by wastelands, both cultivable and non-cultivable. Management of such lands is of strategic importance for enhancing agricultural productivity, improving ecology, poverty alleviation and environmental protection.
Remote Sensing based mapping and monitoring of wastelands over entire country has been carried out under the “Wasteland Mapping and Monitoring Project”, at the behest of Ministry of Rural Development, and the total wasteland area in the country is 46.72 million hectares. Based on this information, Ministry of Rural Development has been planning and implementing wasteland development activities across the country. These efforts have also helped in diversification and intensification of agricultural activities especially in the rainfed areas.
Supporting the livelihood of the fishermen
More than 7 million people living along the 7500 km coastline are dependent on fishing for their livelihood. The satellite based potential fishing zone advisories are made available in local language to the fishing community by Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS), which has resulted in reduced the time and effort in fishing and increased fish catch. The feedback received from various fishermen associations and other agencies indicate that fish catch has been doubled, besides reduction in search time about 60% and fuel cost by about 30%.