In Voeren, a picturesque municipality near Tongeren, VITO uses remote sensing to protect the landscape. Voeren is proud of its unique hedgerow landscape. The region attracts thousands of visitors each year who walk among the fields and rows of trees. But bushes, hedges and solitary trees are increasingly being cut down to create larger and easily workable fields. Historic grasslands have to make way for highly productive grasslands for cattle breeding.

Farmer as landscape manager

“More than 70 percent of the land in Voeren is managed by farmers. The agricultural sector thus plays a crucial role in protecting the landscape and nature,” says Anne Gobin of VITO. “Remote sensing allows us to monitor how the landscape is evolving and what its characteristics are. How big are the plots, where are trees or hedges? You will see much more on orthophotos and satellite image time series than if you were to directly look on site. The information is used to devise new strategies for landscape management, in collaboration with farmers.”

Advice for stronger agriculture

Remote sensing can also strengthen agriculture itself. Anne Gobin: “Monitoring crops via satellite images shows how productive they are. We measure the growth characteristics and add other data such as soil information or the way in which the farmer manages the plot. By regularly comparing satellite images with each other, we gain more insight into the plot. We can also measure differences between the plots, and can formulate recommendations based on these data. This makes agriculture stronger and more resilient.”