Context and objectives
The reform of the European common agricultural policy involves a reduction in the guaranteed minimum prices for a number of agricultural crops. Through the MacSharry Plan, European farmers can receive an area-based financial support to compensate the loss in income. In order to reduce the problem of over-production, the big producers must set aside part of the arable land as fallow.
In Belgium, the Ministry of Agriculture is responsible for the practical implementation of the new regulations. The Ministry decided to develop an integrated administration and control system to deal with the requests for financial support (operational in 1996). The European Commission prescribes that 5% of the requests must be checked by field controls. To cope with the high number of requests and the relatively short period of time in which the controls must be executed, efficient techniques must be used. The image-based approach uses high resolution remote sensing data to detect the most suspicious parcels, and thus optimises the selection of the parcels to be controlled.
Expected scientific results
Software modules for :
full automatic control of the parcel boundaries, including 9 segmentation algorithms (written in ANSI-C); control of the declared crop (written in MS Quick Basic 4.5, and rewritten in ANSI-C).
Tests reveal that the module for image segmentation is very powerful for automatic control of the acreages. The operational use of the satellite image-based procedures for the control of the declarations depends on (a) the test results of the integration of the software modules in the computer system of the Ministry of Agriculture, (b) the evolution of the agricultural policy of the E. C., and (c) tests performed on very high resolution (VHR) images.
Constraints : availability of 2 cloud free images acquired in the right period of the year (May and July). The availability of an image (SPOT P) taken in April is not required, but allows application of the parcel boundary module earlier in the year, leading more quickly to a first indication of parcels to be controlled in the field.