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Article Title :

Satellite Data Based Soil Water Index as a Tool to Monitor Droughts and Agricultural Crisis -An Example of Yavatmal District, Maharashtra, India

Remote Sensing of Land

Vijendra Boken

4 (2020)



Agricultural Drought , Crop Yield , Farmer-Suicide , Precipitation , Meteorological Drought , Surface Soil Moisture

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Yavatmal is one of the drought prone districts in Maharashtra state of India and has witnessed an agricultural crisis to the extent that hundreds of its farmers have committed suicides in recent years. Satellite data based products have previously been used globally for monitoring and predicting of drought, but not for monitoring their extreme impacts that may include farmer-suicides. In this study, the performance of the Soil Water Index (SWI) derived from the surface soil moisture estimated by the European Space Agency’s Advanced Scatterometer (ASCAT) is assessed. Using the 2007-2015 data, it was found that the relationship of the SWI anomaly was bit stronger (coefficient. of correlation = 0.59) with the meteorological drought or precipitation than with the agricultural drought or crop yields of major crops (coefficient. of correlation = 0.50).  The farmer-suicide rate was better correlated with the SWI anomaly averaged annually than with the SWI anomaly averaged only for the monsoon months (June, July, August, and September). The correlation between the SWI averaged annually increased to 0.89 when the averages were taken for three years, with the highest correlation occurring between the suicide rate and the SWI anomaly averaged for three years. However, a positive relationship between SWI and the suicide rate indicated that drought was not a major factor responsible for suicide occurrence and other possible factors responsible for suicide occurrence need to examine in detail.

The paper introduces a satellite-based tool, Soil Water Index (SWI) to monitor droughts.

The paper addresses the issue of farmer-suicides in Maharashtra and explores the use of SWI in monitoring the suicide rate.

It finds that drought is not a dominant factor in causing farmer suicides.

The paper explores the potential of SWI in monitoring crop yields and precipitation.

Multi-year drought conditions produced greater impact on farmers resulting in better relationships with SWI.


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Nagraj, K., 2008. Farmer Suicides in India: Magnitudes, Trends and Spatial Patterns, Madras, Institute of Technology, Chennai.


Sanghamitra, A., 2013. Monsoon fury: Drought and flood in Maharashtra. Council of Edulight, 2(4), 192-196.

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