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Using ISRO technology, university team maps farmlands to help farmers increase production

Pune, India, 14 January 2007 – Farmers in the State of Maharashtra may now soon have a new ally that will help them to manage their farms better. A team of researchers of the Department of Geography of the University of Pune is using remote sensing technology developed by Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to evaluate crop distribution and quality with the objective of working out effective practices to boost production.

The project, undertaken with funding and infrastructure support from ISRO, will look at applications in agriculture and examine the feasibility of putting ISRO sensors in a mixed cropping region. “Till now, conventional surveys could not yield region-specific data. This is a problem, because Maharashtra comes under southern peninsula where the farmland is diverse and fragmented,” says Principal Investigator Vrishali Deosthali, who is heading the project.

With the help of remote sensing technology and using multi-date images of the crop like growth stage, quality and distribution, and supplemented with the ground data derived by Global Positioning System (GPS), the crop growth profile can be carried out. The data is also entered into a computer using the Geographical Information System (GIS) that integrates different attributes like soil, crop, land, slope and water. This provides a comprehensive and clear picture about the specific nature of a given land area and will help the farmer in identifying suitable locations for future plantations.

The project areas include Pune, Ahmednagar and Solapur districts for sorghum crop and the other districts in the State for jatropha plantation. Both the projects have two-year duration — the sorghum project began in 2005, while research for jatropha began in 2006. In fact, with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) funding, the team had done a successful study of soyabean crop production in Shirol taluka in 2004.

While the project is confined to the research stage, Deosthali says the system has vast potential and can be implemented given the necessary mechanism at the government and non-government level.