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Agriculture

Satellite monitoring to cut Japan's reliance on USDA farm data

Tokyo plans own system for predicting global harvests vital to its food supply

Japan intends to use data from satellites to forecast crop production worldwide.   © NASA/Reuters

TOKYO -- Japan intends to produce its own forecasts of global farm production based on satellite observations, seeking to reduce reliance on agricultural data gathered by the U.S.

The three-year project starting in 2020 involves transferring a meteorological data system to the country's agriculture ministry from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA.

Japan, which has long depended on data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, aims to better predict harvests of rice, wheat, soybeans and other crops on its own. These forecasts can be shared with trading houses, food processors and other links in the nation's food supply chain.

Researchers will assess correlations between weather patterns and crop yields, using the space-based observations. The satellite monitoring of agrometeorological information, now operated by the space agency, provides data on factors such as sunlight and precipitation. The satellites also can look for signs of drought, torrential rains and other threats to crops.

By working more closely with JAXA, the ministry also aims to improve predictions of natural disasters like landslides and weigh the effectiveness of government spending to support farm production.

Japan is relying more on technology like satellites and sensors to aid farming as its shrinking, aging population and the growth of suburbs erode the nation's ability to feed itself.

Japan's food self-sufficiency ratio fell to an estimated 37% in fiscal 2018 based on calorie supply, down from 73% in fiscal 1965, farm ministry data shows.

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