CCSI and UDI team up for ORNL-CIMMYT project

May 05, 2016

Scientists from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) Climate Change Science and Urban Dynamics Institutes (CCSI and UDI) conducted a training session on the ORNL-developed Landscape Scale Crop Assessment Tool (LCAT) in New Delhi, India, May 2–3, 2016. During the session, 15 members of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) were trained on the use of LCAT, a suite of remote sensing–based data and data analytics capabilities that provides critical information for sustainable agriculture and food security.

Suresh Vannan, director of the ORNL Distributed Active Archive Center for Biogeochemical Dynamics and CCSI data theme lead, says “The LCAT project is an incredible opportunity for us to operationalize data and analytics capabilities developed at ORNL to address sustainable agricultural and food security challenges.”

Agricultural advances in the 1960s and ’70s, including the introduction of high-yielding varieties of cereal grains, helped fuel what was called the “Green Revolution.” Recently, however, gains in cereal productivity have slowed in South Asia. At the same time, increasing climate variability, including extreme weather events, is further challenging the quest for food security in South Asia and worldwide.

Issues such as these have been the driving force for meetings in recent years between ORNL and CIMMYT, a global leader in maize and wheat research. On May 20–22, 2014, CIMMYT hosted a meeting with ORNL at CIMMYT headquarters in Mexico, where LCAT specifics were discussed in detail. The idea that emerged was to use ORNL expertise to provide a set of tools that would allow decision makers at the landscape (i.e., local) level to use remote sensing data for decision making and technology targeting (e.g., fertilizer and irrigation decisions).

LCAT is being developed for South Asia, but the algorithms used are generic and can therefore be applied to any region where cropland is predominant. “A tool like LCAT,” says Vannan, “is much needed, especially now when the global economy faces food shortages and climate-related agriculture productivity issues such as drought.”

CCSI-UDI LCAT team members preparing for the LCAT workshop: (left to right) Suresh Vannan, Dalton Lunga, John McNelis, April Morton, Yaxing Wei, Melanie Phillips, Angie Wei, Nagendra Singh, Makhan Virdi, and Dilip Reddy Patlolla (missing: Budhendra Bhaduri). Budhu Bhaduri, Nagendra Singh, Suresh Vannan, and Makhan Virdi conducted the training session. Photo courtesy of Suresh Vannan.

Data from various remote sensing projects like NASA’s MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) and Landsat are being used in the project. In addition to applying ORNL expertise in assembling the data, project participants are tapping into ORNL-developed resources such as data visualization and analytical tools to make the data useful at the landscape level.

During the project, ORNL scientists hope to develop a method to remotely identify crops on the ground using spectral characteristics. Then they can use the spectral signatures to map all the vegetation types in a region, in conjunction with phenology, to compare regions and help farmers determine what types of crops to plant.

User engagement is a big part of the total picture. So the training session with CIMMYT was used not only to demonstrate the tools but also to solicit feedback and get a better understanding of how ORNL’s CIMMYT colleagues, as well as local farmers, might use the tools.

LCAT, funded by CIMMYT, is the first project under a 5-year agreement between CIMMYT and ORNL, signed in 2014. The ORNL team includes Budhendra Bhaduri, Suresh Vannan, Dalton Lunga, John McNelis, April Morton, Yaxing Wei, Melanie Phillips, Angie Wei, Nagendra Singh, Makhan Virdi, and Dilip Reddy Patlolla.

For more information on LCAT, contact Suresh Vannan, 865-241-6181.


By VJ Ewing.