Agricultural sector in Poland, which is going to be the first market for the service, embraces irrigation at a growing pace. Precipitation in Poland has been always low in comparison to other European countries, moreover the effect of climate change has caused repeated droughts in the last years.
Most farmers manage irrigation without any, or very limited, investment in decision support systems. Bigger farms install soil probes, however, due to their high price, farmers usually use only one sensor per field or even 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, supported by crop monitoring, weather and moisture conditions, enable more efficient and sustainable water management.
Users and their needs
As the ClimField service is addressed to farmers irrigating field crops (mainly potatoes), this category of user is involved in the service development and in pilot operations.
Farmers who grow potatoes can be divided as:
- 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 of 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.
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 on 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. In parallel, a field research was initiated – ET and meteorological station as well as soil sensors were deployed in test field with irrigated potatoes.