BELCAM - BELgian collaborative Agriculture Monitoring at parcel level for sustainable cropping systems

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Context and objectives

The management strategies of agroecosystems have evolved during the last 50 years by intensifying the use of agrochemicals and agricultural machinery, expanding irrigated areas, and incorporating new crop varieties. But excessive use of inputs plays a significant role in the degradation of our environment.

Good practices in N fertilisation have economic and environmental (run-off, leaching…) benefits and increase yield and quality of the crop. Optimized fertilization practices as well as winter cover crop reducing erosion and leaching are in line with the evolution towards sustainable agriculture.

The advent of a new generation of high spatial and temporal resolution satellite sensors (i.e. Sentinel-1, Sentinel-2 and PROBA-V) opens the doors to new applications. In parallel, mobile communication technology is shaping a different world where interactions and near real time information exchange become very easy and flexible. Building on this, the research challenge is to completely change the interactions between information users and producers and to markedly speed up the critical learning process for the remote sensing providers thanks to input and near real time feedbacks from the users.

The main objective of the project is to develop remote sensing method and processing chains for crop monitoring services able to ingest near real time crowd sourcing data provided at the field and district level by farmers and associates either on voluntary basis or through information service exchange.
Emphasis is given to the shortening of the information loop linking the producer and the users.

This project, working on a JECAM site and taking advantage of the BELAIR campaigns, will contribute to GEOGLAM, an initiative supported by the G8. Belgium is a very interesting experimental site to design and test innovative methods for a collaborative information system because of its crop diversity, landscape fragmentation, atmospheric variability, and all the already available data sets (digital soil map, annual field delineation, etc.). The development of the BELCAM prototype is built on existing in situ monitoring practices (wheat, potato) and on interactions with the agricultural pilot centers.

Project outcome

Expected scientific results

The overall outcome is a prototype of a Belgian Collaborative Agriculture Monitoring system (BELCAM) allowing on the one hand continuous improvement of remote sensing outputs to support farming advices at the field level, and on the other hand, to contribute to operational agriculture services for their a posteriori growing season analysis (stress, diseases and impact assessment).

Expected products and services

  1. Annual Nitrogen balance-sheet forecast at field level, based on previous crops rotation, farming practices (i.e. crop residues, green manure, tillage…) and field conditions (slope, soil texture…);
  2. Annual field zoning, to help adjusting farming practices according to field heterogeneity compiled from previous years;
  3. Potato/winter wheat Nitrogen status at the parcel level, deciding respectively whether a secondary N application would be required or not or on the level of the 3rd application of N fertilizer, based on the Chlorophyll a,b retrieval and the plant N estimate;
  4. Overall crop status (LAI, fAPAR, biomass) for potato/winter/maize along the season and aggregated at the district level;
  5. Major pest, N, water stress or disease damages assessment, aggregated at the district level from SAR and optical time series analysis;
  6. Yield estimate, derived from the newly developed model aggregated at the district level.

The Belgian farmers are the potential end-users as well as any entities supporting the crop production in Belgium. BELCAM will be promoted in the JECAM network for internationalization of the potential users.