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Collection of Farm Fire Data in India

  • 28 Nov 2023
  • 6 min read

For Prelims: Consortium for Research on Agroecosystem Monitoring and Modeling from Space, Suomi NPP satellite, Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite, Baler Machine, Happy Seeder, Bio-enzyme PUSA

For Mains: Aspects Related to Data Collection of Farm Fires, Innovative Techniques for Crop-Residue Management.

Source: IE

Why in News?

As the farm fire season draws to a close, a total of 55,725 instances of such fires have been documented across six North Indian States from September to November, 2023.

  • These figures have been attained via satellite surveillance, adhering to established and standardized monitoring protocols.

What are Farm Fires?

  • Farm fires usually refer to deliberate fires set on agricultural fields, primarily after the harvest season to clear crop residue, particularly in regions practicing stubble burning.
    • These fires often involve burning leftover straw, stubble, or crop residues to prepare fields for the next planting season quickly.
    • However, farm fires can also occur accidentally due to machinery malfunctions or other unintended causes.
  • While it can be a cost-effective and time-saving method for farmers, it contributes significantly to air pollution, emitting large amounts of smoke, particulate matter, and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

What are the Major Aspects Related to Data Collection of Farm Fires?

  • Data Collection Body:
    • Indian Agricultural Research Institute’s (IARI) Consortium for Research on Agroecosystem Monitoring and Modeling from Space (CREAMS) Laboratory issues a daily report on paddy residue fires.
      • It was set up in 2013, with the primary purpose of monitoring crop conditions against extreme climatic events.
    • This comprehensive bulletin details farm fire incidents in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Delhi.
      • It includes a district-wise breakdown of recorded incidents from 2020 onwards, specifying fire location, satellite used, timestamp, and intensity.
      • The report is shared with central and state-level agencies, to guide actions and identify hotspots needing focused interventions.
  • Data Collection Through Satellites:
    • Three sensors aboard three different NASA satellites: one called Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) aboard the Suomi NPP satellite, and two called Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), aboard the Terra and Aqua satellites, collect this data by recording land surface temperatures.
      • Each satellite passes over the Indian subcontinent twice every 24 hours, at different times.
    • In the past five years, the lab has used a different satellite set to map burned areas. Sentinel-2 satellites, part of the European Space Agency, serve this purpose.
  • Monitoring Protocol:
    • IARI acquires satellite data from its ground station and the National Remote Sensing Centre, ensuring year-round monitoring of farm fires across the country.
    • Prior to 2021, varied methodologies led to discrepancies in recorded farm fire events across different monitoring centers.
    • However, the Commission for Air Quality Management implemented a standardized protocol in 2021.
      • IARI reprocessed 2020 data using this protocol, enabling comparative analysis from 2020 onward.
  • Identifying Paddy Fires:
    • Identifying paddy fires involves distinguishing them from forest fires or those originating from industries.
      • This process begins by identifying paddy cultivation areas and mapping farm fires accordingly.
      • Paddy cultivation exhibits a distinct reflectance signature over time due to its typical background of water, unlike other crops like sugarcane or maize. Overlaying this signature with fire events helps discern paddy fires.
    • Satellites determine active paddy fires by detecting an increase in land surface temperature above specific thresholds, distinguishing fire events from surroundings.


Detecting a fire relies more on the quantity of burnt residue than the area affected. A higher amount of residue burnt results in a notable increase in temperature compared to the surroundings, indicating greater fire intensity and the likelihood of detection.

  • Fire intensity, measured as energy emitted per unit area and time, offers insights into the quantity of residue burnt.
  • Limitations and Challenges
    • Weather Influence: Climatic conditions, particularly cloud cover and water vapor, can obstruct satellite sensors, hindering accurate readings and data acquisition.
    • Seasonal and Time-of-Day Variability: Changes in seasons and discrepancies between day and night conditions affect the effectiveness of fire detection thresholds, creating hurdles for consistent monitoring.

What are the Innovative Techniques for Crop-Residue Management?


Understanding the complexities and limitations of data collection is crucial in devising effective strategies to address farm fires and mitigate their impact on environmental and public health concerns. Continual advancements in technology and methodology remain integral to refining monitoring approaches for better insights and proactive interventions.

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