Sentinel-2a, the lead spacecraft in Europe\'s new multi-billion-euro Earth observation programme, went into orbit in June. Its mission is to return pictures of the planet’s surface in visible and infrared light.
Its data will map everything from the growth of megacities to the destructive aftermath of natural disasters such as earthquakes.
Sentinel-2a will also have a particular role in monitoring the performance of the world\'s food crops. Its camera sensor has been designed to detect very specific wavelengths of light that detail the health of plants. This should give international agriculture and food agencies advance notice of poor harvests and the potential for famine.
\"We have 13 spectral bands including four in the so-called \'red edge\' where plants, and chlorophyll for example, reflect light - and this shows us what plants are doing,\" explained Prof Volker Liebig, the director of Earth observation at the European Space Agency (Esa).
\"This is especially important for food monitoring and, for me, food security applications will be among Sentinel-2\'s most important uses.
\"It will help the World Food Programme forecast bad harvests, and reduce, let\'s say, speculation on world food markets, which always costs lives because it sends prices skyrocketing even when there are enough cereals to go around,\" he told BBC News.
Source: Jonathan Amos, BBC Science Correspondent. Read the full article here.