Improving remote sensing data for agriculture

As the world’s climate changes, there is a growing need to equip farmers with the tools and technology to more effectively manage their land.

Digi-Ag Scholar Yi Yu, from the Fenner School of Environment and Society, is part of an ANU-CSIRO team looking at the use of multi-platform remote sensing to measure land surface temperature and soil moisture.

Microwave and thermal infrared remote sensing techniques involve sending signals from satellites to the ground which then reflect back, providing unique opportunities to analyse the level of soil moisture and land surface temperature. They are publicly free, and provide data over a larger surface area and to a greater depth than traditional soil moisture measurements, which typically use fixed probes and flux towers.

Yi’s research is about finding methods to improve the resolution and accuracy of soil moisture and land surface temperature measurements made by remote sensing, over large areas of land. The research has practical benefit for agriculture as it can serve as a valuable complement to rainfall forecasting, especially in the face of climate change, allowing farmers to make better informed decisions.

“It can lead to improved water management in agriculture by providing accurate and detailed information about soil moisture content. Farmers can optimise irrigation practices, ensuring that crops receive adequate water without wastage or overwatering, which can lead to water conservation and cost savings,” Yi says.

“Data derived from our research can help in optimising fertiliser application. By understanding the moisture levels in different parts of a field, farmers can target their fertiliser application more precisely, reducing the risk of nutrient runoff and improving nutrient use efficiency. This can enhance crop productivity and reduce environmental impact.

“Data obtained from high-resolution soil moisture research can be integrated into agricultural decision support systems and precision farming technologies. These tools can provide real-time information to farmers, enabling them to make informed decisions about crop selection, planting schedules, and pest management strategies based on soil moisture conditions. Such technologies can enhance productivity, minimise crop losses, and promote sustainable farming practices.”

In April, Yi travelled to Vienna to present his research to the European Geosciences Union General Assembly. The conference enabled him to talk about his research and promote the work at ANU and CSIRO, but also to connect with a diverse range of international researchers from the field who share similar interests in remote sensing.

“I greatly appreciate the opportunity to interact with these researchers in person, as it brought a new dimension to our professional relationships. Typically, we only encounter their names in virtual settings, but at the conference, we were able to engage in face-to-face conversations. It was fascinating to put faces to the names and connect them with the papers we have read.”

Yi’s trip to Vienna was supported through the Research Support Allowance as part of his Digital Agriculture Supplementary Scholarship.

To find out more about Yi’s research, contact him here.

To find out more about the Digital Agriculture PhD Supplementary Scholarship, please go here.

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