Working towards sustainable agricultural monitoring worldwide

To feed every mouth, agriculture is becoming increasingly intensive and more and more farmland is being used. But which ecological effect does this have? Within the framework of the European SIGMA project, VITO and other international partners worldwide use their expertise in agricultural monitoring to answer that question.

According to FAO, the food and agricultural organisation of the United Nations, food production must increase by at least 70% by 2050 to continue feeding the growing population. Focusing on more intensive farming on existing and new farmlands inevitably impacts the environment, but exactly how large is that impact? The SIGMA project (Stimulating Innovation for Global Monitoring of Agriculture) wants to calculate this. For the project, VITO is joining forces with 22 international research facilities and companies.

The SIGMA partners are developing an integrated, global agricultural chart, which can be used for (sustainable) agricultural monitoring. Along with the JECAM programme (Joint Experiment Crop Assessment and Monitoring); SIGMA creates a network of test sites in the European Union, Africa, China, Argentina, Russia and Ukraine, where in situ measurements are conducted. Based on the measurements — on crops, fertilisation level, constitution of the soil — the SIGMA partners design crop growth models. Those models allow scientists to make local predictions. To scale up these results, satellite images are used, including the 100 metre resolution images of Belgian microsatellite PROBA-V. What impact does agricultural intensification have on current and future climate change scenarios? By 2017, the project partners hope to be able to answer that question.
 

VITO's role

Aside from the coordination of this international project, VITO is also responsible for collecting in situ data in Flanders. The analysis of time series for yield predictions, based on satellite images, is VITO's area of expertise. Based on collected measurements and satellite images, VITO is helping to develop a portal site that will provide information for global agricultural monitoring and harvest predictions.

SIGMA: facts & figures
  • Partner project with 23 international research institutions and (agricultural) companies
  • Part of the European Seventh Framework Programme (FP7)
  • Duration: November 2013 - March 2017
  • Budget: €9,100,000
     
Focusing on more intensive farming on existing and new farmlands inevitably impacts the environment, but exactly how large is that impact? The SIGMA project wants to calculate this.

@VITObelgium maps growth of #potato plants at #HighRes with #UAV's & new processing techniques bit.ly/SIGMA-news