Prof. Arup Dasgupta
India is going through an economic crisis; the Rupee is falling, the stock markets are down and gold prices are going through the roof. In the backdrop of all this, the Indian government decided to bring in a Food Security Bill to ensure minimum nutrition to the underprivileged and the poor. India Inc’s fear that scarce funds will be diverted from industry to agriculture is adding to the turmoil. However, food is something that is the very basis of our existence and the very underpinning of civilisation.
While tremendous developments have happened in different sectors; those early agricultural crops have remained the same over the centuries. What has changed are the technique of agriculture and food processing and preservation. Today, we can observe another major change, this time in the use of geospatial technology to bring efficiency and higher yields. This has become an imperative as the world population grows, nutrition requirements increase, while land — the essential base for agriculture — remains limited, and in fact, under pressure from conflicting demands from different sectors like infrastructure, urbanisation, commercial crops and forestry, to name a few. Land must be sustainably used; yields must be improved; wastage must be reduced; distribution should become efficient and ubiquitous.
In this situation, geospatial technologies can play a vital role in inventory of resources, planning, monitoring and efficient implementation of activities. These applications have moved beyond Large Area Crop Inventory Experiment, which used remote sensing data to assess crop acreage and production estimation. Today, remote sensing, GIS and GPS is being used in precision agriculture to optimise application of inputs to maximise yield. According to Trimble, these solutions aim to provide the farmer with the best possible outcome for himself, his family, his investors, and indirectly for the customers and the environment. The idea is to provide analysis, optimise practices, increase productivity and make the best use of available resources.
The ‘industry’ of agriculture also requires insurance against unexpected damage due to extreme weather events. Climate change poses many problems and geo-technologies offers solutions. In this issue we have endeavoured to cover all these aspects with stories of geospatial application as well as a review of the role of geospatial technologies and their use by various institutions. Agriculture is now as complex as any other manufacturing industry, perhaps more so, because, if agriculture fails everything else will. Napoleon said “an army marches on its stomach”; a statement which can be extended to any human activity, I may add. It is, therefore, but natural that geospatial systems, like many other technologies, should play an important role in agriculture.