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Lake Maggiore - Italy, 3-6 April 2000

Incorporating the use of VEGETATION data in FAO’s programmes

F.L. Snijders
Remote Sensing Officer
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Paper (pdf file, 588 k)

Data from low-resolution earth observation satellites have been used operationally by FAO in the fields of early warning for food security and desert locust plague prevention for many years. Originally, this focussed on data at 4-10 km resolution, which proved very suitable for the monitoring of crop growing conditions over large areas, in particular when a long-year archive of historic data was available. In the field of desert locust control, this was less successful and efforts were undertaken to obtain data at 1 km, from local HRPT stations. However, operational use of data from a variety of sources proved very difficult and the quality and timeliness was highly variable among sources. The launch of the VEGETATION instrument onboard SPOT offered an excellent opportunity to change this situation as it offered a global coverage processed at a single Centre.

In order to explore the possible uses of VEGETATION data, an agreement was established between FAO and the EU Joint Research Centre. Within the framework of this agreement, a number of activities were undertaken. First, some tools had to be developed to facilitate access to the data, which is in HDF format. This resulted in a simple information extractor and a conversion utility that has been put in the public domain and allows the use of the data on simple PCs. Second, the use of 10-daily composits has been incorporated in the operations of the FAO Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS) and the locust control group, through the ARTEMIS system. Third, new applications of the data are being explored.

The experiences obtained so far clearly indicate that VEGETATION is a unique and very valuable instrument that has a very wide field of applications, although some improvements are still needed to both the processing and the delivery system. While in the field of locust control the benefits are more direct, in the field of early warning for food security the importance will grow more steadily, as this application relies strongly on the availability of historic data. Other applications, such as in the field of irrigation monitoring, are still under investigation.