When Farmland Becomes the Front Line, Satellite Data and Analysis Can Fight Hunger

Article by Inbal Becker-Reshef and Mary Mitkish: “When a shock to the global food system occurs—such as during the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022—collecting the usual ground-based data is all but impossible. The Russia–Ukraine war has turned farmland into the front lines of a war zone. In this situation, it is unreasonable to expect civilians to walk onto fields riddled with land mines and damaged by craters to collect information on what has been planted, where it was planted, and if it could be harvested. The inherent danger of ground-based data collection, especially in occupied territories of the conflict, has demanded a different way to assess planted and harvested areas and forecast crop production.

Satellite-based information can provide this evidence quickly and reliably. At NASA Harvest, NASA’s Global Food Security and Agriculture Consortium, one of our main aims is to use satellite-based information to fill gaps in the agriculture information ecosystem. Since the start of the Russia–Ukraine conflict, we have been using satellite imagery to estimate the impact of the war on Ukraine’s agricultural lands at the request of the Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food of Ukraine. Our work demonstrates how effective this approach can be for delivering critical and timely insights for decisionmakers.

Prior to the war, Ukraine accounted for over 10% of the world’s wheat, corn, and barley trade and was the number one sunflower oil exporter, accounting for close to 50% of the global market. In other words, food produced in Ukraine is critical for its national economy, for global trade, and for feeding millions across the globe…(More)”.

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