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High-tech satellite bolsters crop monitoring

Crop monitoring is soon to benefit from imagery from the European Space Agency’s latest satellite, launched early March as part of the European Union’s Copernicus environmental monitoring system.

The optical imaging Sentinel-2 mission is based on a constellation of 2 identical satellites:

  1. Sentinel-2B, which is now ready to start scanning
  2. Sentinel-2A, which was launched in June 2015

See also: Accurate satellite images improve nitrogen efficiency

The satellites are in the same orbit, but 180° apart, and they jointly cover all land surfaces, large islands, and inland and coastal waters between latitudes 84°S and 84°N every 5 days, optimising global coverage and data delivery.

Acquire crop density and health data in half the time

Each of the satellites carries an innovative high-resolution multispectral camera with 13 spectral bands for a new perspective of land and vegetation.

Together with a field of vision covering 290 km and frequent revisit times, the satellites will provide unprecedented views of Earth, says the ESA, providing data that will not only monitor the world’s forests, detect pollution in lakes and coastal waters, and contribute to disaster mapping, but also help agricultural crop management.

High-tech satellite bolsters crop monitoring

The satellites will provide unprecedented views of Earth, says the ESA, providing data that will not only monitor the world’s forests, detect pollution in lakes and coastal waters, and contribute to disaster mapping, but also help agricultural crop management. Photo: Stephane Corvaja/ESA/SIPA/REX/Shutterstock

Crop monitoring

Louis Gilmartin, remote sensing expert at British agronomy, engineering and software company Precision Decisions, has worked with data and imagery from Sentinel-2A since its launch.

He says the second satellite will halve the time taken to acquire data used to detect and monitor crop density and health.

Data archive

In addition, because the data is collected frequently and archived, it can be compared over time to look for patterns in crop health and yield so appropriate action can be taken before problems become serious.

The company is developing its MiFarm online mapping portal software to enable a graphical overlay of the satellite data acquired and processed so farmers can easily see and monitor their crop health, adds Mr Gilmartin.

There are also plans to upgrade MiFarm from a single to multi-layer platform to become a powerful field and farm management tool.