Specials Environment

Posted July 1999

Special: Remote Sensing for Decision-makers

Crop information systems

Pilot study in Romania

Introduction | Aquaculture | Forest management | Rangeland assessment | Groundwater exploration | Forest fire management | Forest decline assessment | Crop information systems | Inventory and monitoring of shrimp farms

[ also available in French ]


A crop information system provides agricultural specialists with the elements needed for decision making. The main advantages of a crop information system are: impartiality, rapidity, flexibility. Decision makers have immediate access to cultivated areas depending by type of crop, stage of a crop's growth cycle, yield forecast, technical conditions for land preparation, etc. This information is absolutely necessary to elaborate short- and long-term agricultural strategies.

Satellite images

High resolution satellite data - LANDSAT TM or SPOT and lower resolution data such as NOAA (from the station that was installed at headquarters CRUTA) combined with exogenous data (thematic maps at various scales) provide new possibilities for land-use analysis. In comparison with classical methods (topographic measurements, aerial photogrammetry, etc.) satellite data offer a range of advantages:

Need for elaboration of a a crop information system

In the early 1990s, Romanian agriculture underwent radical changes as a result of:

Given these conditions, the "pyramid" system (in fact, an accounting system) for agricultural information was totally inefficient, with personal judgement having a decisive influence on the estimation of agricultural areas and crop yields.

In order to supervise and correct Romanian agricultural reform according to the adopted strategy, decision makers must have objective and updated information provided by a unified agricultural information system.

Landsat TM image - September 1990 - before Land Distribution Law application


Landsat TM image - August 1994 - after Land Distribution Law application

Crop information system (CIS)

The methodology used for the crop information system established by EC-JRC in 1987, is based on multilayer survey approach. Implementation and operation of agricultural information system was carried out in the following phases:

NOAA satellites images were acquired every day during the growing season. The analysis of quantification of phenomena and the permanent monitoring of the vegetation health is performed by comparison with a historical evolution base. The results were used in two ways:

Detail of area frame sampling. Left: Stratum 1 (non-agricultural land); right: Segment in Strata 2-3 (agricultural land)

Evaluation and recommendations

Costs and delivery times

  Costs (US $/km2) Time (days)
Satellite images purchase 1.05 30
Numerical processing and photo-interpretation 0.08 90
Survey documents, including an extract
of the respective panchromatic image
0.05 30
Field investigation 0.09 30
Data processing and edition of results 0.05 15
Total 1.32 195

Note: satellite images are purchased once in 5 years.

Advantages of a crop information system

The agricultural information system presents a series of advantages in comparison with the previous accounting system:


The applied methodology can be successfully applied in any agricultural area. The inputs provided by satellite images are very valuable in all working phases and specifically in:

This study was financed by the Romanian Centre for Remote Sensing Applications in Agriculture (CRUTA) and coordinated by GEOSYS, within the framework of the European Commission Phare Programme.

Adapted from FAO Remote Sensing for Decision-makers Series, No. 18, "Satellite imagery for a crop information system". For a full list of issues available in the Series, see FAO Publications on Remote Sensing

The designations employed and the presentation of material in this brochure do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authority, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.

Remote sensing Introduction | Aquaculture | Forest management | Rangeland assessment | Groundwater exploration | Forest fire management | Forest decline assessment | Crop information systems | Inventory and monitoring of shrimp farms

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