India has a very well developed system for collection of crop statistics covering more than 50 crops at village
level and aggregating it at different administrative levels. However, need for early and in-season crop production
forecasting has been strongly felt. Remote sensing for crop assessment has been explored since very beginning of space
applications in India. A nation-wide project called Crop Acreage and Production Estimation (CAPE) was launched at the
behest of Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India in 1988. Major growing regions in the country for wheat, rice,
cotton, groundnut, rapeseed/mustard and Rabi (winter) sorghum were covered. Production forecasts were made about a
month before the harvesting using multi-band remote sensing data acquired at optimum bio-window and weather data.
Ministry of Agriculture, satisfied with the performance of CAPE, came out with a request to target multiple crop
production forecasts starting with crop sowing to end of season.
Crop identification with remote sensing data requires using the data when crop has sufficiently grown.
However, forecasting of crop at sowing stage would require use of weather data and information on economic factors
controlling the farmer's response. Considering these things "Forecasting Agricultural output using Space, Agrometeorological
and Land based observations (FASAL)" concept was devised. FASAL aims at using econometric models
to forecast the area and production before the crop sowing operations. In unirrigated areas, information on amount and
distribution of rainfall is being used for forecasting the crop acreage as well as yield. Remote sensing data, both optical
and microwave form the core of crop area enumeration, crop condition assessment and production forecasting. Temporal
remote sensing data is being used to monitor the crop through its growing period. Vegetation indices and weather
parameter derived from surface and satellite observations will be used to develop the crop growth monitoring system.
Components of FASAL concept have been developed, tested and implemented through a series of exercise and
these are i) National wheat and winter potato production forecasting using IRS AWiFS data, ii) National Kharif rice
production forecasting using Radarsat SAR data, and iii) District level FASAL implementation in Orissa state. Typically
three in-season forecasts are being made. With this the FASAL concept of using the multi source data and techniques has
been successfully demonstrated.
FASAL implementation has been taken up to make national level multiple forecast of crops like rice, wheat, cotton,
sugarcane, rapeseed/mustard, rabi-sorghum, winter-potato and jute. Procedure development for use of remote sensing,
weather data - surface measurements as well as derived from satellite data, field and ancillary data to run the crop growth
simulation models has been taken up. The programme is sponsored by Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India.
Space Applications Centre of Indian Space Research Organisation has provided the scientific leadership to the project. A
large team drawn form a number of institutions such as ISRO/Department of Space, State Remote Sensing Applications
Centres, State Agricultural Universities and many other institutions are working for the project.