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Satellite mapping of acreage under Sugarcane Crop, 2011-12
22 Dec 2011
SATELLITE MAPPING OF ACREAGE UNDER SUGARCANE CROP FOR 2011-12 SUGAR SEASON
The Government as well as the industry has been traditionally estimating the area under sugarcane every year through a manual system under which estimates are collected from the field and compiled. Such manual estimation of cane area have gone wrong quite substantially in the past, leading to sometimes higher production of sugarcane and sometimes to lower production of sugarcane in the country than what had been estimated at the beginning of the season. Such manual estimation has also resulted in wrong formulation of policies and strategies both at the Government and industry level, harming not only the millers but also the cane farmers and the sugar consumers.
2. It was therefore very strongly felt that there was need to ensure better estimation of the sugarcane production to help in important policy formulation as well as important strategies to take care of shortages or surpluses, as the case may be, right from the beginning of the season. It was also realized that there are four important factors which determine the sugar production. These are (a) area under sugarcane; (b) yield/productivity per hectare of cane area; (c) diversion of available sugarcane for manufacturing of alternate sweeteners like gur, khandsari etc; and (d) sucrose content and thereby the recovery of sugar.
3. Though uncertain weather including rainfall and sunshine impact the estimates, it was felt that a scientific estimation of sugarcane area can be made through adoption of technology and satellite mapping. Various countries in the world carry out such estimations for various kinds of crops, including sugarcane. Accordingly and in order to reduce the uncertainty due to poor manual estimation, the Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA) and National Federation of Cooperative Sugar Factories Ltd. (NFCSF) decided to jointly undertake satellite mapping of crop area under sugarcane for the sugar year 2011-12. For conducting the satellite survey, a GIS based agency was hired which procured images from National Remote Sensing Agency (NRSA), Hyderabad, who have now submitted their report.
4. The survey has been carried out, state-wise and district-wise for the sugarcane area, for the first time, through satellite mapping in India on such a large scale. Though there were some surveys carried out by some trading houses and individual sugar mills, a pan-India survey has been carried out by the sugar industry for the first time. On a detailed analysis of the satellite mapping report, the sugarcane acreage for 2011-12 has been estimated at 51.82 lakh hectares. This is slightly higher to the estimates of sugarcane area made manually by the sugar industry at 50.79 lakh hectares, by Ministry of Agriculture at 50.93 lakh hectares and Ministry of Food and PD at 50.25 lakh hectares. In other words, the survey carried out through satellite mapping shows higher sugarcane area as compared to estimates of the Government by around 3%. The area estimated for 2011-12 sugar season through the satellite mapping of 51.82 lakh hectares is 2.38 lakh hectares higher than the actual area of last year i.e. 2010-11 of 49.44 lakh hectares, i.e. an increase of 4.8%.
5. Special precautions have been taken to overcome issues and problems like mixed crop signature of lookalike crops by ground truthing report through physical visits or reports from mills and GPS point collection.
6. As mentioned above, there are various other important factors like yield, diversion and recovery which determine the sugar production. The present effort and result has been restricted to the cane area for the first year. With further refinement in the estimation, efforts would be made to survey individual sugar mill-wise area and latter, if possible, efforts could be made for an estimation of the yield. It, however, should be accepted that estimation of yield is not an easy task and has not seen much success in most of the countries.
7. The other benefits of satellite mapping would include advising individual mills on their cane health issues, local agro-climatic conditions, soil conditions, plant ratoon ratios, traditional and non-traditional growth areas of cane etc. The Government of India has already provisioned satellite crop surveys under their `FASAL` programme (Forecasting of Agriculture outputs through Satellite, Agro-meteorology and Land based observations). In future, the sugar industry intends to get reports in August and February, every year as the first and second reports respectively, which would give an opportunity to review the estimates midyear also.
8. With higher sugarcane area now being reported through the satellite mapping survey, sugarcane production will be good.
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