CSIRO research aims to deliver a suite of near real-time information tools to the livestock grazing industries.
Pastures from Space™
CSIRO and Western Australia’s Department of Agriculture and Department of Land Information have established the Pastures from Space™ program.
9 January 2008 | Updated 14 October 2011
Using spatial informatics and remote sensing technology, Pastures from Space™ provides farmers with a suite of tools to accurately estimate the amount of feed in their pastures, how quickly their pastures are growing and the pasture quality.
Efficient use of feed resources in the livestock industries of Australia is a major factor in determining farm profitability and sustainability.
Pasture utilisation by sheep and cattle during the growing season is low relative to total pasture production.
In many years total pasture consumption can be as low as 20 to 30 per cent, yet sustainable pasture utilisation of more than 50 per cent is possible.
With limited information, many producers forego potential production because of ineffective management of their feed resources. Further, poor management can also lead to environmental degradation.
It is estimated that for every five per cent increase in pasture utilisation, an increase of A$10 per hectare in profits can be achieved.
“The difference in scale between what the eye can see and what the satellite sees is huge.”
Through Pastures from Space™, satellite data can be used to:
accurately and quantitatively estimate Pasture Biomass or Feed On Offer (FOO™)
produce Pasture Growth Rate (PGR™) estimates when combined with climate and soil data
quantitatively and objectively measure the change in vegetation over time due to climate change or human intervention.
Pastures from Space™ uses satellite images to estimate pasture biomass with 97 per cent accuracy.
PGR™ utilises information from climate records and satellite images to calculate pasture growth rates at the national, regional, farm and paddock scale.
PGR™ technology has been widely used by farmers across southern Australia and it was recently released to graziers in eastern Australia.
PGR™ information is:
A weekly subscription for information at the paddock level is available through Fairport Technologies.
This technology will assist producers with management decisions such as:
What CSIRO did
CSIRO worked with research partners to develop and deliver cutting-edge spatial informatics solutions.
Near real-time information tools at a whole-farm and within-paddock level have been developed.
These underpin tactical and strategic decision making for Australian agricultural businesses.
The team has also developed tools to objectively quantify the change in vegetation as a result of climate change, management, and even mining activity and rehabilitation.
Further work aims to develop vegetation quality measurement techniques, involving the use of airborne and satellite-mounted near infrared reflectance spectroscopy (NIRS) equipment.
NIRS measures the wavelengths of infrared light reflected by pasture, which varies depending on the amount of protein, fibre, lignin, oil, starch and other components in the pasture.
Researchers hope that in the future, a suite of spatial and remote sensing tools including PGR™, biomass and quality measurements, will be tailored for individual users and available as required all year round.
The aim is to have these available from a within a paddock to a regional and even a continental scale.
About our researchers
The CSIRO researchers involved in this project were:
Dr Dave Henry - Stream leader
Dr Steve Gherardi - Project leader
Mr Graham Donald - Remote Sensing and GIS, PGR™ model
Dr Asoka Edirisinghe - Remote Sensing and GIS, FOO™ model, pasture quality model
- Dr Rebecca Handcock - Remote Sensing and GIS, vegetation quantity and condition
Mr Gonzalo Mata - Farming systems, web development, newsletter
- Dr Irina Emelyanova - Spatial Analysis, GIS, Mathematics, Statistics
Mr Anton Coppens - Business development
Ms Elizabeth Hulm - Pasture analysis, field and laboratory expertise.
Learn more about CSIRO's work in Pastures.