Special Feature: Eyes In The Sky, Farmers Rest Insured

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Odisha, India: Paddy farmers in Odisha look to the skies with the hope that rain will help ease the dry conditions in their fields. Their prayers are answered but often long after the scorching heat of the Sun turns the green fields into dirty brown patches with scattered straw and shrivelled grains. Many farmers abandon the crop. Some farmers have insured their crops under the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) because droughts are becoming frequent in their area but, as it happens often, the compensation for crop loss is credited to their bank accounts much later, when the next crop is already in the field. The story gets repeated in many places in different ways, and it may result from drought, flood or an infestation of brown plant hoppers.

Satellites have sharper vision with Synthetic Aperture Radar

What delays the claim settlement process is the time consuming and cumbersome process of crop loss assessment which identifies crop area affected and harvested yield, through a large number of crop cuts in selected Gram Panchayats (GPs). Technology can help to generate faster estimates of crop loss using ‘eyes in the sky’. These optical or radar (microwave) imaging systems on board satellites repeatedly scan the land surface at a resolution that is good enough to capture the changes occurring on ground at field level.

The International Rice Research Institute, working with the Government of Odisha, maps rice areas, monitors crop growth, estimates paddy yields and assesses damages caused by adverse weather events like droughts and floods, using a combination of Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) images and crop growth models.

Establishing regional rice crop monitoring and information systems help governments, agricultural intermediaries, traders and relief organizations in better managing domestic rice production…

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