School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Geography Academics Connect with the World at International Geospatial Conference in Iran

Geography Academics Connect with the World at International Geospatial Conference in Iran

Professor Onisimo Mutanga, and Drs John Odindi and Mbulisi Sibanda travelled to Iran to present at the International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ISPRS) International Geospatial Conference, held at the University of Tehran’s campus of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

The conference was sponsored by the Germany Aerospace Centre (DLR), ISPRS and the University of Tehran and attended by more than 400 delegates. Mutanga presented a keynote address and Odindi received the award for the best paper.

The conference themes included geoinformatics for agriculture and natural resources management, earth observation in climate change, natural hazards and disaster management, and green and smart cities.

Mutanga, the South African Research Chair in Land Use Planning and Management, was invited to deliver a keynote address on the topic of Trends in the Remote Sensing of Rangeland Productivity: Lessons from Africa. The presentation tracked developments in the remote sensing landscape to estimate and map the quantity and quality of grazing resources in heterogeneous African landscapes. He explained that this is important because anthropogenic and natural factors, including climate change, have dramatically altered rangeland productivity to the detriment of livestock and wildlife grazing sustainability. Mutanga demonstrated the utility of hyperspectral data, and lessons learnt from the associated technical processing to upscale to cheap and freely available new generation multispectral data to match requirements for poor African countries.

In the session on hyperspectral remote sensing, Odindi, UKZN’s Academic Leader for Geography, presented a paper on the utility of the upcoming Hyperspectral Infrared Imager (HyspIRI) sensor in detecting maize Gray Leaf Spot in relation to Sentinel-2 MultiSpectral Instrument (MSI), Vegetation and Environment monitoring on a New Micro-Satellite (VENµS) and Landsat 8 OLI spectral band-settings. He highlighted the need for spatially explicit, cost-effective and consistent approaches for monitoring as well as forecasting food crop diseases such as maize Gray Leaf Spot. According to Odindi, this technology could reduce diseases and associated economic losses, and contribute to food security.

In the agriculture session, Sibanda, a researcher in the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences, presented on the discrimination of tomato plants grown under anaerobic baffled reactor effluent, nitrified urine concentrate and commercial hydroponic fertiliser regimes using multi-source satellite data. He assessed the detection and discriminative strength of three different satellite spectral settings in mapping tomato plants grown under these different nutrient sources. The results showed that spectral settings of HyspIRI sensor could better discriminate tomatoes grown under different fertiliser regimes than Landsat 9 OLI and Sentinel-2 MSI spectral configurations, opening up new opportunities for crop monitoring at farm scale.

Following the conference, the Dean of the University of Tehran’s College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences Professor Seyed Hossein Goldandsaz and the College’s Head of International Relations Dr Valiollah Mohammadi invited Mutanga, Odindi and Sibanda to meet and discuss areas for further collaboration between the university and UKZN. They discussed the potential for co-supervision of students, appointments of Adjunct Professors, exchange of faculty members, joint research projects, special short-term academic programmes, exchange of academic materials and more, and plan to explore the establishment of an official memorandum of understanding between the institutions.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photograph: Supplied