Grasslands cover approximately 37 percent of Earth’s land surface when calculated with shrub-lands and savannas. In Western Europe, grasslands comprise 40 percent of agricultural land. And now European Space Agency (ESA) Copernicus Sentinel satellites are being used to detect and better evaluate management practices of grasslands in Estonia.
Since 2015, the Tartu Observatory, its spin-off KappaZeta Ltd. and software integrator CGI have been creating a system capable of detecting grassland management practices based on Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 data.
The application has major potential in the context of the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy (EU CAP), where one of the requirements for subsidy payments is regular mowing of the grasslands. So far, checks have mainly relied on inspectors, but field visits are expensive, time consuming and can never cover the entire country. Applying satellite remote sensing for inspections is a logical technological step forward, helping to reduce manual labor while giving a more-objective picture of the condition of agricultural grasslands throughout the EU.