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Memorandum of Understanding

COST 256/99
Memorandum of Understanding for the implementation of a European Concerted Research Action designated as
COST Action 718
"Meteorological Applications for Agriculture"

The Signatories to this Memorandum of Understanding, declaring their common intention to participate in the concerted Action referred to above and described in the Technical Annex to the Memorandum, have reached the following understanding:

  1. The Action will be carried out in accordance with the provisions of document COST 400/94 "Rules and Procedures for Implementing COST Actions", the contents of which are fully known to the Signatories.
  2. The main objective of the Action is to improve the meteorological applications to agriculture and environment protection identifying and defining the requirement in terms of scale and time resolution and end-users' needs.
  3. The overall cost of the activities carried out under the Action has been estimated, on the basis of information available during the planning of the Action, at EUR 6 985 000 at 1999 prices.
  4. The Memorandum of Understanding will take effect on being signed by at least five Signatories.
  5. The Memorandum of Understanding will remain in force for a period of five years, unless the duration of the Action is modified according to the provisions of Chapter 6 of the document referred to in Point 1.

COST Action 718
Meteorological Applications for Agriculture


The new approach to agriculture following the Agenda 2000 of the EU seeks to increase the application of meteorological information for the development of models for the assessment of the quality of agricultural products, for the estimation and monitoring of yields and for the environment protection and cultural rural heritage conservation.

Agriculture needs agrometeorological models to predict and forecast crop yields and productions, to support decision and to minimise environmental costs of agriculture with short-term consequences (quality of products, environmental concerns: N, pesticides) and outputs or inputs with long-term consequences (reduction of water resources, modifications of climate).

Agrometeorological models are basically formal expressions of physiological functions fed with climatic (dynamic) forcing variables and other environmental (static, initialisation) variables (soils, management). One of the basic aims of this Action is to improve the applications of meteorology to agriculture and environment in reference to crop management, groundwater contamination by fertilisers and pesticides, erosion etc.

Agrometeorology has struggled in the past by having good products (in the eyes of agrometeorologist) which are poorly taken up by the perceived users.

The Action should start with a selection of current and future end-user needs with respect to selected applications (e.g. with a high added-value in terms of environmental protection, minimising economical risks and/or scientific breakthrough) and on the basis of the experience and availability of expertise and gaps identified in the previous agromet COST Actions.

Main end-user needs: if field-scale models are still useful for research purposes, three types of operational tools are now required depending on the domain of space (D) and ground resolution (R) aimed at, as well as on the actor of decision-making.

1.1. The actor is a farmer when D = farm and R = field or within-field.
1.2. The actors are extension agents, companies when D = (agricultural) landscape or region and R = homogeneous field, farm, group of homogeneous farms for:
1.2.1. General advises (pest control, irrigation, management)
1.2.2. Management of grain collecting, stocks, insurance premiums
1.2.3. Reduction of outputs or inputs on domains of collective interest (watersheds, water tables)
1.3. Diagnosis and management where D = country and R = region for:
1.3.1. Management of food markets
1.3.2. Subsidies
1.3.3. Computing compensations for climatic hazards

The MoU could be devoted to the best strategy and working programme to fulfil these needs and/or provide the required products and services as to meteorological and environmental data, methods and models, integration of observational methods (radar, satellite, stations) and use of models into integrated systems.

This last can take advantage of the technological development that put at disposal new instruments as satellites, radar, airborne sensors, automatic weather stations, numerical weather predictions, new generation of computers, specialised software as statistical packages, image processing, data bases and spreadsheets, expert systems, Geographical Information Systems, telecommunication networks including Internet.

The recently terminated (1994-1997) COST actions for agrometeorology (COST 77, 79, 711) have just highlighted some of the previously requirements and gaps that need to be filled. This called for a new effort towards focused goals involving scientists from both meteorological and the agricultural community


The project seeks to see what the current use of weather data is in agrometeorological products with a review of current methods and how they are used, e.g. nearly every country in Europe has some sort of scheme of warnings when suitable weather for potato blight disease has occurred. This ought to help fix objectives and to provide verification i.e. do we see an increased use of the products or an improvement in agricultural practices as a result of the COST action.

The weather input data to such schemes should be reviewed together with the uses of such information e.g. by farmers, by agro-chemical companies, by extension services and companies etc.

The following tasks cover such topics as how the weather data can be improved (areal coverage, timeliness, etc.) and if remote-sensing data can make an impact. Improvements can be made then a pilot trial could be done to verify the practicalities of such improvements and if the uptake by the users has increased.

A bespoke database of agreed surface and remotely sensed data to a common European standard and to an agreed protocol would have value.

This database could be made available to each member country to allow the running and possibly integration of the largely empirical models - pest, disease, water quality.

The main objectives of the action will be to improve the meteorological applications to agriculture and environment protection identifying and defining the requirement in terms of scale and time resolution and end-users' needs and in particular:

2.1. Obtain detailed information on the all end-user's needs for data inputs, outputs and interpreted information and knowledge
2.2. Compile a meta-database of all available data and appropriate ancillary information
2.3. Identify omissions in the available data and methods such as remote sensing data of obtaining additional data to remove the omissions
2.4. Select models with outputs that satisfy the exacting needs of users; in the absence of any such models consider how best to provide them and at what scale.

In addition, the project will demonstrate the practicality of such applications to management and planning of agriculture sector at the national/regional/local level.

Regional models are often successful, but local models are notoriously hard to define - local topography, microclimate and crop development all have an influence here. How are these problems to be addressed will have a great bearing on the types of exploitation of the data.

Both spatial and temporal resolutions at which the meteorological data are available don't correspond to the specific needs of applications in agriculture and represent one of the main constraint for certain operational applications.

One of the main objectives of this Action is to write down protocols for the validation, implementation and use of models, bearing in mind user requirements and operational constraints related to the data and the information currently available. The scientific community defining the content and goals of the protocols will make an organised attempt in this topic. On the basis of this consideration an estimation of the benefits arising from the utilisation of agrometeorological models can be made with a strict collaboration with the end-users.

This kind of approach would be extremely beneficial to advance and strengthen the presence of the meteorological community in the field of agriculture and the related environment.

The beneficiaries of this COST action will be the agricultural extension services and the planners for agricultural sector. This kind of end-users that will be involved in the Action will benefit from the existence of common procedures for data collecting, archiving and spatialising and for models utilisation in co-operation with the meteorological services.


All the sequences of operations will be analysed from data acquiring in the requested format from meteorological network, numerical weather predictions, satellite and airborne sensors up to the use of models al local, regional and national scale.

A specific evaluation will be done concerning the ancillary information as phenology, soils characteristics and methodologies for computing derived data as evapotranspiration, beginning of growing seasons, degree days, etc, collecting and comparing methodologies for their calculation and estimation in order to establish a standardised approach and a harmonisation of methodologies useful in this field throughout Europe.

Significant advances will be produced on issues 1.2. and 1.3. by:
A. Identification of data requirements, their treatment imposed by selected and identified applications/models:
A.1. Spatialisation methods for climate (weather) variables.

This topic will deal with the availability of surface data at a scale of time and space useful for the input in the models. The aim of the project will be to investigate whether data can be produced in good time with the requested format and accuracy useful for operational models in order to provide an enhanced service to meet growers needs.

Requirements and availability of climatological data will be investigated:
(i) (for past records and) in real time
- from classical weather network (follow-on of the work of COST-79)
- from satellite images
- from grid data produced by high-resolution (nested) climate models
- by building spatial weather generators
(ii) in short-term forecast from high-resolution weather models

A.2. Crop models adapted to issues 1.2 and 1.3:
(i) Scaling up structure and parameters of field-scale models, site results, using regional statistics
(ii) Providing estimations of predictive capabilities of such models
(iii) Defining model interfaces with sources of spatialised data (weather, soil, management).

B. Defining rules and procedures of scientific validation of some selected models to establish a common protocol:
The following aspects of validation will be investigated in terms of:
statistical methodologies
sensitivity of the models to the different meteorological parameters.

One of the main goals of this issue would be to establish a common protocol in the European framework for the validation and application of models in the field in the field of crop management, including the effect of adverse weather, at national/regional/local level. The protocol should take in account the MARS project of JRC of ISPRA, concerning the definition of homogeneous areas and consequent appropriate gridding system, the fields of interests for the planners related to the objectives of Agenda 2000 of EU, the types of models more relevant for this goal as well as the input data and other information (topography, crops inventories, soils, etc.). The results should be used for improving the methodologies for statistical productions of yields and productions, to present the outputs and evaluate the benefits.

C. Promoting the use of satellite data and procedures to integrate various types of data as inputs to certain models

How we can better exploit data obtained by meteorological, earth satellites and aircraft to assess land surface characteristics relevant for surface agrometeorological data spatialisation and model utilisation.

On the basis of the previous COST "Applications of R.S. in Agrometeorology", it was demonstrated as satellite data should be used as ancillary information to try to solve some problem of spatial resolution and downscaling.

The following aspects will be investigated:

  • Promoting the use of satellite data for high-frequency monitoring of cultivated vegetation communities with the use of low-resolution sensors, the synergy between wavelengths and the method for assimilating remotely sensed data into crop models
  • The activity done by EUMETSAT in this field trough SAF and specifically the Land Use SAF will be taken in consideration through exchange of information.
  • Identification of user driven requirements for data from the new generation of European airborne/satellite instruments that could be launched by ESA or EUMETSAT for agricultural and environmental applications.

3.2 Expected results

The results of the action should be the improvement of the application of meteorology to agriculture and environmental protection and in particular.

  • Provide climate model community with characteristic sizes (time frequency and ground resolution) of weather data needed by agriculture at regional and national level, find a compromise between feasibility and needs
  • Identify needs for and promote development of some paradigms of models adapted to large spatial domains (models for crops, P&D, effluents, consumption), eventually useful for regional monitoring (of crop production, of environmental costs) and management (scenarios of changing agricultural systems, dimensioning of environmental taxes or subsidies)
  • Integration between ground based and remote sensing data to improve the accuracy of the model performance
  • Estimate the cost-effectiveness of such a methodology (cost of model development plus cost of inputs -climate and remote sensing)


A very close collaboration will be established with EUMETSAT, ECSN, MARS project of JRC and with the Agrometeorological Division of WMO

In a first step, four separate working groups to define two or three case studies:


to study availability and quality of input weather data (interpolated and gridded)

  • Finalise study of interpolation methods (based on COST 79)
  • Check off high-resolution climate models (availability of data, validation of predictions at ground level from network data)
  • Examine effectiveness of remote sensing to estimate weather variables
  • Check off existing weather generators, with advantages and drawbacks. Build spatial weather generators


To study ability of crop and pests-and-diseases (P&D) models to fít in a domain = landscape, region or country

  • Check off components of models and their resilience to upscaling
  • Check their ability to receive regionalised weather data
  • Test and check their ability to predict and forecast (validation study):

short-term outputs (decisions for irrigation, fertiliser dressings, pest control, climatic risks from 3-days weather forecast and probabilistic forecast) long-term outputs (yields, total crop effluents, from spatial weather generators)


To study potentialities of assimilating remotely sensed information from new sensors into crop and P&D models

  • Scaling down ("unmixing") coarse resolution and high frequency data
  • Synergy assimilation of various available wavelengths (solar, thermal, microwaves)


A working group could be devoted to an interface with end users, as COST 78 "Nowcasting", to identify with a selection of current and future end-user needs with respect to selected applications and/or models. Usefulness and delivery of agrometeorological information to those who can make best use of it in planning operations should be considered. This working group could be set up also to: oversee the applications, encourage exploitation of advances in technology transfer and visualisation techniques, harmonise model applications where possible.

Scientific communities addressed by such a project are:

  • Climate modellers (MetOffices and Universities)
  • Crop modellers (model makers: Universities and other research Institutes, model users: extension services, companies)
  • Applied remote sensing (MetOffices, Universities and other research Institutes, R&D in companies)
  • Statistics (Universities, MetOffices for validation schemes and evaluation of weather generators, Statistical Boards)

Each WG should have as it first task to refine the elements of the MoU for which it is responsible and provide a set of specific, time-bound and verifiable milestones along with all the elements of the assessment criteria which should be the responsibility of the working groups.

For a limited number of crops in a number of countries (regions) where people are willing to cooperate in the provision of data (meteorological, phenological, edaphic, topographic), in monitoring and modelling, a (pilot) total system should be set up to show that this can improve things for farmers, and for planners.


The Management Committee and four chairmen of the Working Groups (WG) will constitute the leading structure of the action. It is recommended that an observer from the TC be appointed to monitor the work of the MC. Each WG will meet at least twice per year and the STSMs will be used effectively to maximise the exchange of experience among the participants. The MC will meet at least twice a year and will have the role to link the activities of the WGs in a way that the information, the needs and the results of each WG will serve as inputs to the others. A frequent exchange of information among the members of the MC will facilitate this task. Each WG will have a number of members between 6 and 9, which would be the right size for an efficient management.


Publications of the results of the action will be of two types: scientific papers and procedures manuals. The first should be promote and encouraged by the MCM in term of co-authored papers or international journals and review. This will credit and justify the COST support.

The second will be very useful contribution to disseminate the results to the recipients particularly the Meteorological services Agricultural Extension Services and Public Administration responsible of land planning and allow these to put in practice the procedures and protocols established by the action trough a specific well organised guide.

A specific initiative should be undertaken to put at disposal of the Services the results of the action trough a WWW interactive page.

Joint meetings among different WG and with others WG from others relevant COST actions will be promoted as, a tool to optimise the interactions.

Every year during the meeting of MCM the chairmen of the WGs will present the intermediary results inviting, if possible, the international agencies involved in the field and representatives of the users.


The following countries have participated in the preparation of the Action:
Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Slovakia, Slovenia, United Kingdom

A preliminary scheme of the budget could be as follows considering two participants for each country and assuming the number of countries will be the same of those interested to the MOU (34)

EU Funding (euro x 1 000) (per year)  	   	 
Meetings                      34 people x 2,5                     85000
Study Contract                4                                        40000 
STSMs                          12                                       12000 
Workshops                     1                                       10000 
Total                                                                     147000 
Total Over 5 years                                                  735000 

National Funding  	  	 
2 people/country 6n-i/M x 2   50000 x 17 x 5           4250000 
Consumables, computer time, etc                           2000000
Total                                                                   6250000
Total EU + Countries                                             6985000

COST 718 Meteorological Applications for Agriculture