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test of the experimental system. The system will be tested during the
1978 crop year.
Department's New and Increased Emphasis on
This Department, at the direction of Secretary Bergland, is reexamining its
requirements for information about the world's natural resources, both renew able and nonrenewable. A Department working group has developed a listing
of the broad kinds of information, potentially supportable by aerospace
technology, which are needed by the Department to carry out its missions.
These requirements were then assigned priorities based on perceived immediacy
In priority order the requirements are:
1. Early warning of changes affecting production and quality of
The group is now examining the component parts of these broad infor
mation requirements, and is conducting an inventory of the Department's
research, testing, and development (RD&T) projects which address the use
of aerospace-acquired data. This inventory, when completed, should provide
a basis for the development of a coordinated effort among USDA, NASA, and
other interested agencies to develop and test new technologies which
exploit space-acquired data.
The new program mentioned earlier which will follow LACIE, is a signifi
cant step in learning as much as possible about the feasibility of applying
of space technology to this Department's information problems.
While LACIE experimentation was limited to forecasting wheat produc
tion, the new program will extend its efforts to developing, testing, and
evaluating methodology for assessing condition and forecasting production
of additional important world crops and regions. This new program will
concentrate primar ily on the Department's Number 1 and 2 priorities as
they relate to agricultural crops, and will provide a basis for future
Departmental decisions on the use of space-acquired data.
will utilize data from the current and planned Landsats and meteorological
It must be recognized, however, that this program will deal
with agricultural crops only. It will not directly address information
needs for other renewable resources, such as forests and rangeland.
the LACIE follow-up program is only one of a number of significant Depart
ment remote sensing related activities.
Planning teams are now establishing
crop and country priorities for the program, and defining research objec
tives, criteria, and schedules.
It is anticipated that other USDA agencies will review the Remote
Sensing RD&T programs within their purview in light of the Department's
stated requirements. These reviews would be conducted as time, resources,
and planning horizons permit.
Suggested Areas of Technical Development
We understand the Committee is already in possession of the Depart
ment's views on its technical requirements for resolution, spectral
coverage, geographic registration, and so on.
Since the FAS does not
have responsibility for the technical development of remote sensing
technology, our recommendations in these areas are from the standpoint
of a user, rather than a designer of space technology.
We need a capability to extract quantitative data, such as
duration and amounts of precipitation, from meteorological satellite
imagery. Currently, we rely on data from ground reporting stations for
information on precipitation, wind speed and direction, surface tem
perature, and other weather related data which are essential to our
activities. Data from a ground station represents only the weather at
that particular point, and may not be at all representative of rainfall
and temperatures in surrounding areas.
Also, in many of the areas of
interest to FAS, first-order ground reporting stations are widely
We see the need to develop a common current and historical
meteorological data base which can be accessed very quickly and selec
tively by all Federal users, and possibly by non-Federal users.
is of use only when it is available in a timely manner and in usable
We would recommend max imum development and use of communication satellites capabilities for the rapid transfer of space-acquired
and other data and information between locations.
Future Use of Space Data by USDA
While the Department recognizes the potential value of satellite data,
and is committing substantial resources to research, development, and test
ing, it has made no commitments to operational use of the data. The future
of the application of space-acquired data in the Department's programs will
to a great extent be established by the multiagency coordinated research,
development, and testing program which is now being planned. This program
was briefly described earlier in the statement. Therefore, it is too early
to make definitive statements about what a future space system would look
like, and who would operate it. However, we can make the following general
o Satellites, alone, are not likely to produce information which
is usable by the Department. The satellite data must be analyzed in con
junction with data acquired from other sources.
These would include data
on weather, climate, and historical trends, attache reports, maps, soil in
formation, field surveys, census data, trade journal, and other kinds of
remotely sensed data. Thus, we view satellites as potentially valuable
providers of repetitive and unbiased data which can be integrated into our
Landsats-c and D, while primar ily experimental satellite systems,
will provide repetitive digital data which can be delivered in near-real
time, and will be capable of supporting some operational applications. This gives us the opportunity to learn as much as we can about the value of
satellites to the Department.
o In the short term, we believe that the biggest potential payoff
from satellites will be in assessing the condition and production potential
for foreign crops.
For many foreign areas, our current information is in
adequate or is received too late to be of maximum use. Data from Earth
resources and meteorological satellites could be used in developing early warnings of events which may affect the total production of important world
crops, and in after-the-fact assessments of the impact of these events.
Other areas where satellite data can probably be used are in
forest resource inventorying and monitoring, general land use inventories
and change detection, soils association mapping, and monitoring and pre
dicting water runoff.
No doubt many other applications will surface as
as technology advances and analysis techniques are developed.