Identifying shortfalls in the use of soil
with satellite imagery
Konrad Link *
that destroys its soil destroys itself.”
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
mechanism of cooperation in the peaceful exploration and use of outer
space is to identify social shortfalls on the use of soil on Earth with
remote sensing technologies.
When we look at
the satellite image of the levant region, in Image 1.1 we understand the
power of remote sensing to identify the profound social inequalities
that shape our world: one geographic region, with same climate and land
features, with so contrasting imprints in soil cover.
Image 1.1 – soil
cover in south levant and north Sinai regions[i].
It is possible
to clearly identify the Gaza strip, and the Israel – Egypt border,
having Israel the greenest soil cover in the region.
In the zoomed
Image 1.2. we can see that just from crossing the border from one
country to the other, there are contrasting apparatus supporting the
Image 1.2 – in
clockwise position: north of Sinai Peninsula, Gaza strip, Israel.
were captured by Landsat 8 Operational Land Imager instrument (OLI). The
OLI provides “sufficient resolution to distinguish features like urban
centers, farms, forests and other land uses”[ii].
agriculture is internationally recognised by the modern irrigation
methods and technologies. Drip irrigation, sustained use of industrial
waste water for agriculture[iii],
computerized fertigation (a process that automatically injects
fertilizer through irrigation systems)[iv],
biopesticides and use of satellite imagery for crop management[v]
are some of the extra edge assets Israeli farmers count for the most
efficient use of water and soil.
direction, the Israeli government has plans to keep investing in space
technology to expand their imagery database taken from space. Among
projects in development important hightlight goes to VENµS[vi]
project, an earth observation microsatellite to be build jointly by
Israel and France, aimed at precision agricultural imaging and
paramount for the development of a nation. Poor access to food leads to
subnutrition and undermine minds slowing the creative and innovative
power of a country. High cost access to food impact the purchase power
of a society.
Outer Space Treaty: “the exploration and use of use of outer space
[...] shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all
countries, irrespective of their degree of economic or scientific
Also, “States Parties shall carry on activities in the exploration and
use of outer space, […] in the interests of maintaining international
peace and security and promoting international cooperation and
The art of
adding value to existing satellite imagery brings benefits, and must be
fomented internationally, and nationally in every country: mechanisms
that identify shortfalls on use of soil to design policies and concerted
measures to improve the imprints monitored by satellite. Those resulting
concerted measures shall be carried by both, governmental and non
of evaluating shortfalls on the use of soil with satellite imagery:
this image is of a rural area in Brazil, in the municipality of Laranja
da Terra. The agriculture is predominantly family farming, small rural
properties working to achieve the maximum output possible of production.
2.1 – irrigated areas, dry season
during a very dry season, on August 27th 2013, with Landsat 8
OLI instrument, with Stretch 3SD enhancement to better identify
topography. Most of the hills, in brown evidence the drought. The bright
green are irrigated areas, most of them in the lowland. Main products
are bananas, okra, chinese-yam, tomato and coffee.
The up part of
the image points exactly north. East of the river in the center of the
image outputs greater agriculture production, while west being more
balanced between agriculture and cattle raising. The image
evidences shortfalls of irrigation in hilly areas. Because of lack of
irrigation there is low or none economic output from many hill areas.
Because there is
low output from hill areas many suffer the supression of forest to turn
into extensive cattle raising. Expected key decisions on the resulting
process of reading satellite data are, but not limited to: evaluate
access of agriculturists in this region to modern irrigation
technologies, that cause less water stress and are less labor intensive,
such as drip irrigation; evaluate access of agriculturists to the
construction of water reservoirs in the top of the hills to perform
irrigation by gravity; evaluate overall water efficiency of the region;
evaluate less water dependent cultivars for the hill areas; evaluate
efficiency of credit lines to acquire modern irrigation systems and
techniques; evaluate the technical expertise in the region; evaluate
granting incentives to sustainable irrigation systems that improve soil
cover, among others.
* Member of
the Brazilian Association of Air and Space Law (SBDA) and its Centre of
Space Law Studies (NEDE).