USGS releases interactive map of croplands in the world

USGS releases interactive map of croplands in the world

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croplands in the world
Croplands in the world. Image Courtesy: USGS

The US Geological Survey (USGS) has released a high-resolution interactive map of the croplands in the world. The interactive maps are part of the Global Food Security-Support Analysis Data at 30 meters (GFSAD30) using Landsat satellite data. The 30 meter high-resolution that the map provides is the highest amongst any agricultural database. GSFAD 30 data is obtained using multi-sensor remote sensing data from various sources.

Click here to view the interactive map

The interactive map shows that there are 1.87 billion hectares (4.62 billion acres) of croplands in the world, which is 15 to 20 % more than earlier estimations. The change is due to more detailed and precise understanding of vast stretches of croplands that were previously never mapped or were inaccurately mapped as non-croplands.

croplands in the world
The distribution of croplands. Image Courtesy: USGS

In order to preempt agrarian distress, analyze agricultural patterns, develop new agronomic solutions to boost productivity and get a comprehensive picture of the arable land under cultivation, it is imperative to fetch the exact data of the croplands. And there is no better way of doing it than mapping the farms using satellite imagery.

Using satellite data, crop yields per hectare can be estimated in advance and farmers can be accordingly apprised to put to rest their anxiety about the harvesting season. Crop insurance and irrigation facilities can also be improved and overall agriculture modernized smoothly with the help of high-resolution satellite data.

The immediate need for agrarian satellite imagery

With the rapidly increasing world population expected to cross the 10 billion mark by 2050, maintaining food security would require extensive agricultural monitoring and mapping. Farm management and water conservation would also require satellite monitoring as the map provides a detail of water usage per hectare for different crops.

It is estimated that around 80% of our water reserves are used in agriculture. In the coming future, as population explosion is rather inevitable, depletion of freshwater bodies will take a severe toll on agriculture, which is one of the indispensable lifelines of food security. Satellite imagery would enable us to be better prepared and equipped and nudge us to buckle up and strive towards formulating a solution to this dire threat.

croplands in the world
Water usage in agriculture by country. Image Courtesy: USGS

Without a proper diagnosis, an affliction cannot be cured and satellite imagery of farmlands serves the metaphoric purpose of both preventive measure and precise diagnosis vis-à-vis croplands.

The interactive map shows that the country with the highest cropland area is India (9.6%), followed by US (8.9%), China (8.8%), and Russia (8.3%). Together these four countries make up more than one-third of the total croplands in the world.

Unique merits of GSFAD 30

croplands in the world
Map showing the main cultivable crops. Image Courtesy: USGS

GSFAD 30 can successfully monitor croplands area, the 8 prominent crops that cover 70% of the total irrigated croplands, demarcate irrigated and rainfed croplands, portray the type of cropping intensity, and measure both qualitative and quantitative change in croplands in the past two decades. It can help in predicting whether fallowing will be beneficial or crop rotation would be, or whether there will be bountiful production or a near-drought condition. Mass extinction of crops, which is a looming threat, can also be combated by accurate satellite imagery and then increasing crop biodiversity.

croplands in the world
Distribution of rainfed and irrigated croplands. Image Courtesy: USGS

GFSAD30 is one of the biggest applications of Landsat data ever since the first Landsat was launched and put into operation in 1972.

Other agriculture monitoring satellites have various limitations that GSFAD 30 overcomes, such as, the absence of precise spatial location and no dedicated portal for processing and propagating the cropland data.

croplands in the world
Spatial imagery of croplands. Image Courtesy: USGS

The GSFAD 30 data is available for visualization on croplands and in a few months from now, it will be available for downloading as well.  The data is processed using Google Earth Engine Cloud (GEEC) and NASA NEX supercomputer. However, NASA’s Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center (LP DAAC) data is available for download at croplands.

Global croplands also have mobile applications for Apple and Android platforms. The applications have been developed to provide relevant information in a very lucid manner. Images can be taken from the applications in the landscape mode and a tutorial for the same can be found on the croplands website.

Also Watch: What is Precision Agriculture?