EU Science Hub

Agricultural monitoring

Agricultural monitoring is carried out at the JRC mainly to distinguish, identify and measure the main crop production areas in Europe, estimate production early in the year and check the validity of farmers’ applications for EU subsidies. The European Commission uses satellite earth-observation data as a cost-efficient way of gathering the necessary monitoring information.

The JRC supports the implementation of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and its instruments, such as the Good Agricultural and Environmental Conditions (GAEC) standards and the Farm Advisory System (FAS). It also contributes to the Digital Agenda for Europe and the 'Integrated Industrial Policy for the Globalisation Era' with regard to environmental observations sharing and standard setting.

The JRC’s monitoring of agriculture using remote sensing started in 1988, with the aim of providing independent and timely information on crop areas and yields using emerging space technologies. The JRC focuses on anticipating and responding to the evolving needs related to agricultural monitoring. Through the years, JRC activities have led to several innovative developments such as control with remote sensing (CwRS), the Digital Land Parcel Identification System (LPIS) and parcel area measurement using Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) devices.

The JRC provides scientific and technical support for the Integrated Administration and Control System’s (IACS) implementation, cross-compliance implementation and information management linked to the CAP regulations. The expertise developed within the JRC integrates research in and techniques used for carrying out statistics, image processing and interpretation (from satellite or air-borne media), geographic information system (GIS) management and web-based information technology, geomatics and GPS (orthophotos, large-scale mapping, parcel measurement), standardisation and quality control.

Digital Land Parcel Identification System (LPIS)

The Land Parcel Identification System (LPIS) was designed as the main instrument for the implementation of the CAP's first pillar, whereby direct payments are made to the farmer once the land and area eligible for payments have been identified and quantified. The JRC participates in the standardisation processes in order to increase the interoperability of the spatial data through an LPIS core model, and supports the development of user-friendly applications for data documentation. Furthermore, it supports EU Member States by providing guidelines on the production of orthoimagery.

Image acquisition and storage

The JRC is in charge of image acquisition in the context of CAP Controls with Remote Sensing. Two types of images are acquired: satellite imagery and aerial photography. These are used for the management of feasibility studies. The JRC also produces image acquisition specifications and performs benchmarking studies of newly launched satellite sensors.

Support to agricultural policy instruments

The objective of cross compliance is to contribute to the development of sustainable agriculture and making the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) more compatible with the expectations of society at large. Cross compliance is part of the baseline for the definition of agri-environment commitments and for the calculation of the corresponding payments. Farmers receiving payments to sustain their income as well as support for implementing certain rural development measures, i.e. improving the environment and the countryside, must respect cross compliance on the whole holding. Otherwise the financial support they receive is reduced or cancelled.

Water supply to agriculture

Water abstraction for irrigation purposes accounts on average for 24% of total water abstraction across Europe. Pressures on water resources culminate during the summer period when the irrigation demand from agriculture is at its highest. Intensive agriculture is also responsible for the degradation of the quality of surface and ground waters, including contamination from pesticides and nitrates. The JRC is actively involved in studying the impact of agriculture on the quantity and quality of water resources.