Satellite images aid implementation of agricultural reforms

An ESA-backed project has demonstrated how Earth observation satellites can assist in the cross compliance measures a set of environmental and animal welfare standards that farmers have to respect to receive full funding from the European Union included in the 2003 reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy.

Using very high resolution (VHR) satellite images for monitoring whether land is safeguarded in Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC), as outlined within the cross-compliance framework, ensures subsidies are distributed in a fair and timely manner and helps farmers complete subsidy applications more accurately.

High resolution satellites as well as aerial photography have been used for some time to monitor areas where subsidies are provided. VHR Earth observation (EO) satellites, however, offer more detail compared with HR satellites and are capable of identifying various landscape features and detecting potential erosion, tillage practices and maintenance of pastures.

Under the GAEC standards implemented in some countries, farmers cannot remove certain landscape features, including hedges, tree rows, water ponds, walls and single trees, without authorisation of national administration in order to preserve habitats for different organisms and species.

By using special classification procedures on VHR satellite images, identification of these landscape features is possible. In combination with digital aerial images, even single trees can be delineated. By comparing older and recent images of these same areas with the processed reference landscape feature layer, the removal of these features can be detected.

To protect soils against erosion risks and improve soil structure, the GAEC as applied in some countries, states farmers must establish an environmental cover for a buffer width, stipulated by the country itself (e.g. 5 metres), around waterways on all parcels adjacent to waterways to restric

Contact: Mariangela D'Acunto
European Space Agency

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