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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
Aerospace-Related Research and Development

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

of need.

In priority order the requirements are:

1. Early warning of changes affecting production and quality of

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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

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of aerospace-acquired data. This inventory, when completed, should provide

a basis for the development of a coordinated effort among USDA, NASA, and

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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.

The program

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.

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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

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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


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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.

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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

information systems.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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