Crop Forecasting by Satellite:

Progress and Problems

PSAD-78-52: Published: Apr 7, 1978. Publicly Released: Apr 7, 1978.

Additional Materials:


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

The Department of Agriculture (USDA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) are trying to improve forecasts of foreign wheat production by using Landsat satellite imagery and weather data. The Large Area Crop Inventory Experiment (LACIE) is designed to determine the usefulness and cost-effectiveness of using Landsat data in conjunction with weather and climate data for forecasts of foreign wheat production.

To date, LACIE has had mixed success in achieving its performance goals. The Phase II forecast accuracy was high for winter wheat in the Great Plains and low for spring wheat. Production forecast accuracy was low for Canadian wheat, and although the LACIE estimate for the Soviet Union was close to actual production, there were offsetting errors in the area and yield components. Current Landsat technology cannot adequately distinguish spring wheat from other grains. LACIE yield estimates have been less accurate where wheat yields are extremely high or low. To improve the estimates, models are being developed which will use daily rather than aggregated monthly weather data. The lack of reliable historical yield data for some LACIE countries also presents a problem. New research efforts are deemphasizing wheat forecasts and expanding LACIE techniques to other crops and applications.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should provide cognizant congressional committees with periodic assessments of the LACIE project, the experimentation with other crops, and the experiments with early warning of crop damage and crop condition assessment.

    Agency Affected:


Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Feb 28, 2018

Jan 17, 2018

Dec 12, 2017

Dec 6, 2017

Oct 19, 2017

Oct 4, 2017

Aug 9, 2017

Jun 9, 2017

May 16, 2017

Looking for more? Browse all our products here