Larger Wheat Harvest in Ukraine Than Expected

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Published on 14 December 2022

Russia’s further invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 fueled widespread concern about the effects on the country’s farming sector. In the early days of the crisis, food security specialists wondered if Ukrainian farmers would be able to harvest the wheat and barley they had planted the previous fall. They also worried that declining grain exports from Ukraine might throw global markets into turmoil and trigger food shortages continents away.

“Now we are starting to get answers,” said Inbal Becker-Reshef, director of the NASA Harvest program. “Our satellite-based production numbers for the 2022 winter wheat crop in Ukraine make clear that farmers had a largely successful harvest.”

The NASA Harvest team calculated that farmers harvested 26.6 million tons of wheat in 2022, several million tons higher than expected in leading forecasts. “That’s down from the previous year’s record harvest of 33 million tons, but it’s close to the five-year average of 27.9 million tons,” Becker-Reshef added. However, Ukraine does not have access to 22 percent of that wheat in the eastern part of the country due to the war. 

The map above, based on NASA Harvest data, shows the distribution of unharvested wheat in late August 2022. Data showing the location of the front line comes from the Institute for the Study of War and the American Enterprise Institute’s Critical Threats Project.

“The risks on the ground during the war have made the NASA Harvest monitoring system one of the only safe and reliable ways for researchers to track what is happening to crops in Ukraine,” said Sergii Skakun, a NASA Harvest and Land-Cover and Land-Use Change scientist who spent multiple years at Ukraine’s Space Research Institute. The system combines satellite observations and modeling to assess the planting, growth, and harvest of key commodity crops. Data come from the commercial satellite company Planet, NASA, and the European Space Agency. NASA researchers have been working together for more than a decade with colleagues from the Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food of Ukraine, the University of Maryland, the University of Strasbourg, the Group on Earth Observations Global Agricultural Monitoring Initiative (GEOGLAM), ESA World Cereals, National Technical University of Ukraine “Igor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic Institute,” and several other organizations.

Ukrainian officials also monitored the harvest from the ground to the extent possible. “The actual data we are gradually receiving directly from the fields in the territories controlled by Ukraine are very close to the estimates obtained in cooperation with NASA,” said Denys Palamarchuk of the Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food of Ukraine.

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Source: 

NASA Earth Observatory. (2022, December 5). Larger Wheat Harvest in Ukraine Than Expected. Retrieved December 14, 2022