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China using remote sensing to forecast agricultural production and assure food safety

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07 May 2022, Beijing: Chinese meteorologists have started remote sensing satellite-based monitoring and assessment services for winter wheat distribution across the country.

The monitoring precision from space is 30 metres, and meteorology departments at the national, provincial, municipal, and county levels have teamed up to promote satellite technology applications.

According to Zhang Mingwei, an associate research fellow at the National Satellite Meteorological Center who is in charge of the project, the new satellite-powered service can address lack-of-precision difficulties in weather forecasts for grain production.

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According to the centre, the satellite service would provide not only a winter wheat distribution map and data on planting area in various regions, but also dynamic reports of yearly distribution changes, which would aid summer grain production forecasts and the assessment of the impact of weather disasters.

The improvement of satellite technology, as well as China’s expanding capabilities in satellite applications has allowed the preceding issues to be addressed. The Gaofen-6 satellite, China’s first high-precision agricultural observation satellite, has a resolution of up to 2 metres and can distinguish between crops [such as wheat and beans] based on their spectral characteristics, according to Zhang.

Starting this year, the service will focus mostly on staple commodities such as winter wheat, and will cover cities and provinces such as Beijing, Tianjing, Hebei, Shanxi, Shaanxi, Jiangsu, Anhui, and Hubei.

According to Zhang, these are the key production areas for China’s winter wheat, accounting for 90% of the crop’s planting area. They are also vulnerable to drought in the summer, changing weather during harvest season in May and June, and droughts and flooding during the October planting season.

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