The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to strengthen collaboration. In support of this collaboration, NASA and the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) jointly funded a new project to assimilate NASA's Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) data and products into an existing decision support system (DSS) operated by the International Production Assessment Division (IPAD) of FAS. To meet its objectives, FAS/IPAD uses satellite data and data products to monitor agriculture worldwide and to locate and keep track of natural disasters such as short and long term droughts, floods and persistent snow cover which impair agricultural productivity. FAS is the largest user of satellite imagery in the non-military sector of the U.S. government. For the last 20 years FAS has used a combination of Landsat and NOAA-AVHRR satellite data to monitor crop condition and report on episodic events.
To successfully monitor worldwide agricultural regions and provide accurate agricultural production assessments, it is important to understand the spatial distribution of croplands. To do this a global croplands mask to identify all sites used for crop production. Croplands are highly variable both temporally and spatially. Croplands vary from year to year due to events such as drought and fallow periods, and they vastly differ across the globe in accordance with characteristics such as cropping intensity and field size. A flexible crop likelihood mask is used to help depict these varying characteristics of global crop cover. Regions featuring intensive agro-industrial farming practices such as the Maize Triangle in South Africa will have higher confidence values in the crop mask as compared to less intensively farmed regions in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa where cropland identification is partly confounded with natural background vegetation phenologies. Thus, a customized threshold can be employed to examine areas of varying cropping intensification.
This visualization shows Crop Intensity data (regions that produce the most crops), followed by the MODIS croplands product, the 26 countries that produce 82% of the world's food, the population density in 2002 and finally the projected population in 2050.
This image shows the biggest producers of wheat, grain versus the countries that are projected to double or triple their population by 2050. The red cross hatched areas are where significantly more food will be needed. Africa is in trouble.
GCMD keywords can be found on the Internet with the following citation:
Olsen, L.M., G. Major, K. Shein, J. Scialdone, S. Ritz, T. Stevens, M. Morahan, A. Aleman, R. Vogel, S. Leicester, H. Weir, M. Meaux, S. Grebas, C.Solomon, M. Holland, T. Northcutt, R. A. Restrepo, R. Bilodeau, 2013. NASA/Global Change Master Directory (GCMD) Earth Science Keywords. Version 220.127.116.11.0