Since the second world war, the agricultural sector has succeeded in producing 25% more food per person, even though the population almost doubled over the same period. This success however was coupled with a number of side effects such as soil degradation, environmental pollution by pesticides and fertilisers, food scandals, squandering of water, loss of biodiversity and the decline of agriculture in a number of developing countries due to often subsidised Western food exports.
In the future, with fewer farmers and a smaller surface area, agriculture must ensure that enough high-quality food can be supplied to a sharply increasing population, while at the same time taking the environment into account. A more sustainable agriculture is therefore needed. This represents a difficult challenge for which the sector will have to accept a number of new technologies. Earth observation can help here.
The most direct application of satellite images is in crop
identification. This application is already being used on a
large scale to monitor cultivation areas for the attribution
of agricultural subsidies by the European Union, as well as
for statistical purposes. However, remote sensing offers many
more possibilities which will be broadly applied in the future.