Large scale maps of cropping intensity in Asia from MODIS


Agricultural systems are geographically extensive, have profound significance to society, and also affect regional energy, carbon, and water cycles. Since most suitable lands worldwide have been cultivated, there is growing pressure to increase yields on existing agricultural lands. In tropical and sub-tropical regions, multi-cropping is widely used to increase food production, but regional-to-global information related to multi-cropping practices is poor. Such information is of critical importance to ensure sustainable food production while mitigating against negative environmental impacts associated with agriculture such as contamination and depletion of freshwater resources. Unfortunately, currently available large-area inventory statistics are inadequate because they do not capture important spatial patterns in multi-cropping, and are generally not available in a timeframe that can be used to help manage cropping systems. High temporal resolution sensors such as MODIS provide an excellent source of information for addressing this need. However, relative to studies that document agricultural extensification, systematic assessment of agricultural intensification via multi-cropping has received relatively little attention. The goal of this work is to help close this methodological and information gap by developing methods that use multi-temporal remote sensing to map multi-cropping systems in Asia. Image time series analysis is especially challenging in Asia because atmospheric conditions including clouds and aerosols lead to high frequencies of missing or low quality remote sensing observations, especially during the Asian Monsoon. The methodology that we use for this work builds upon the algorithm used to produce the MODIS Land Cover Dynamics product (MCD12Q2), but employs refined methods to segment, smooth, and gap-fill 8-day EVI time series calculated from MODIS BRDF corrected surface reflectances. Crop cycle segments are identified based on changes in slope for linear regressions estimated for local windows, and constrained by the EVI amplitude and length of crop cycles that are identified. The procedure can be used to map seasonal or long-term average cropping strategies, and to characterize changes in cropping intensity over longer time periods. The datasets produced using this method therefore provide information related to global cropping systems, and more broadly, provide important information that is required to ensure sustainable management of Earth's resources and ensure food security. To test our algorithm, we applied it to time series of MODIS EVI images over Asia from 2000-2012. Our results demonstrate the utility of multi-temporal remote sensing for characterizing multi-cropping practices in some of the most important and intensely agricultural regions in the world. To evaluate our approach, we compared results from MODIS to field-scale survey data at the pixel scale, and agricultural inventory statistics at sub-national scales. We then mapped changes in multi-cropped area in Asia from the early MODIS period (2001-2004) to present (2009-2012), and characterizes the magnitude and location of changes in cropping intensity over the last 12 years. We conclude with a discussion of the challenges, future improvements, and broader impacts of this work.

Publication Date


Journal Title

Fall Meeting, American Geophysical Union (AGU)


American Geophysical Union Publications

Document Type

Conference Proceeding