Combining Remote Sensing and Ground Census Data to Develop New Maps of the Distribution of Rice Agriculture in China


Assessments of the potential for food production and of the impact of agriculture on biogeochemical cycling require the best possible information on the distribution of cropland and the nature of the management of that cropland. This information can come from ground-based agricultural census datasets and/or from space-borne remote sensing products, both of which have strengths and weaknesses. Official cropland statistics for China contain much information on the distribution of crop types, but are known to underestimate total cropland areas and are generally at coarse spatial resolution. Remote sensing products can provide moderate- to high-resolution estimates of cropland location and extent, but little information on crop type or management. We combined county-scale agricultural census statistics on total cropland area and sown area of 17 major crops with a high-resolution land-cover map derived from optical remote sensing (Landsat) to generate 0.5\deg resolution maps of the distribution of rice agriculture in mainland China in the early 1990's. Agricultural census data was used to determine the fraction of crop area in each 0.5\deg grid-cell that was in single rice and each of 10 different multi-crop paddy rice rotations (e.g. winter wheat/rice), while the remote sensing land-cover product was used to determine the spatial distribution and areal extent of total cropland in China. We estimate there are 0.30-million km$^2$ of paddy rice cropland; 75\% of this land is multi-cropped, and 55\% has two rice plantings per year. Total sown area for paddy rice is 0.47-million km$^2$. Paddy rice agriculture occurs on 23\% of all cultivated land in China.


Earth Sciences, Earth Systems Research Center

Publication Date


Journal Title

Joint Assembly Meeting, American Geophysical Union


American Geophysical Union Publications

Document Type

Conference Proceeding