Objectives of the service
The agricultural sector in Poland, which is going to be the first market for the service, embraces irrigation at a growing pace. Precipitation here has been always low in comparison to other European countries, while a progressing climate change disturbs water balance, which results in repeated droughts.
Most farmers manage irrigation without any investment in decision support systems or only with use of very basic solutions. Bigger farms install soil probes, however, due to their price farmers usually use only one sensor per field or just one sensor per farm, which does not produce spatially representative measurements.
Combination of farmers’ own experience, soil sensors data, potential EvapoTranspiration (ET) data and weather forecasts usually ensures a good irrigation management but requires a lot of attention and advanced skills from farmers.
Introduction of the ClimField service significantly improves the process of decision-making related to irrigation and water management at farms. EO-based calculations of evapotranspiration and water balance at sub-field spatial resolution, crop monitoring, weather and moisture conditions forecasts enable more efficient and sustainable water management.
Users and their needs
As the ClimField service is addressed to farmers irrigating field crops (mainly potatoes) they are involved in the service development and in pilot operations. This relatively uniform (taking into account the requirements) group is divided into two sub-groups:
- Big agricultural holdings - large and modern farms, sometimes with experience in the use of advanced irrigation-support tools;
- Medium-sized farms - up to several hundred hectares, focused mainly on the production of potatoes and cereals, but also vegetables or herbs.
Both groups are focused on agricultural production and they equally care about the high quantity and quality of crops. Their requirements are as follows:
- information on evapotranspiration and water balance in sub-field resolution;
- information on vegetation response to local conditions (incl. water stress);
- near real-time data access;
- reliability of information.
Potato field at the beginning of the growing season.
Service/ system concept
The ClimField service integrates features that are very important for farmers:
- The information on ET and vegetation indices in sub-field scales enables precise monitoring and identification of problematic areas as well as spatial optimisation of irrigation, without installation of expensive soil probes;
- High spatial and temporal resolution of data on ET and vegetation conditions provides the information on actual reaction of plants to water deficits;
- The information on current and forecasted ET as well as other weather elements facilitates irrigation planning for the next days;
- The calculation of real ET (not potential ET, as it takes place with use of weather data only) enables more optimal irrigation, better adapted to the actual in-field conditions.
The service concept is based on integration of free data provided by Copernicus Programme (mainly Sentinel-2 and Sentinel-3 imagery, land cover map, EU-DEM) together with output of local weather parameters modelling and forecast. The main task is to calculate water balance in a sub-field spatial resolution, which gives farmers the possibility to assess water loses that should be supplemented by irrigation.
Space Added Value
Earth Observation primarily contributes to the service: low and high resolution multispectral Sentinel-2 and Sentinel-3 data are applied as input for models calculating water balance, water demand of plants as well as for monitoring a response of crops to water deficits.
The project was launched in February 2020. Since then in-depth survey-based and direct consultations took place in order to analyse problems that farmers face during irrigation planning and management. It enabled the service architecture adjustment to real and most important needs of future users and clients. In order to validate accurateness of early versions of algorithms, the service proof of concept was implemented and its output thoroughly analysed.
In parallel, a field research was conducted in order to acquire reference data necessary for further algorithms parameterisation and validation of ET modelling results. For this purpose continuous monitoring of ET, weather parameters and soil moisture was conducted on the test field during the entire potatoes growing season.
Weather station located in the potato field.
In addition, the acquisition of reference data using UAVs equipped with hyperspectral and thermal camera, as well as in-situ measurements of LAI and chlorophyll content took place on the same test field.
Thermal image of a potato field made with a drone.