Science Plan

To date, 45 sites have been identified: Eight in North America; three  in Canada and five in the United States, eight in South America; three in Brazil, three in Uruguay and one in each of Argentina and  Paraguay, Nine in Europe; two in Russia, and one in each of France, Belgium, Spain, Ukraine, Germany, Poland and Italy,  ten in Asia; seven in China with one each in Saudi Arabia, India and Taiwan, and finally  ten in  Africa; Two in each of Mali and South Africa, one each in Burkina Faso, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, Morocco, Senegal and Tunisia.  Most of the sites have extensive in situ data, which will be shared between experiments during JECAM and made generally available post JECAM.

The research topics have significant commonality between all (or most) test sites. However, there is a great diversity in the ecological characteristics and hence, in the cropping systems, as shown in the following list:

  • Argentina: Soybean, Maize, Wheat, Sunflower, Sorghum
  • Belgium\France: Wheat, barley, potatoes, sugar beet, maize, alfalfa
  • Canada: Forage, pasture, canola, flaxseed, sunflower, soybean, corn, barley, spring wheat, winter wheat, rye, oats, canary seed, potatoes, field peas
  • China: paddy rice, sugar cane, peanut, vegetable, wheat, winter wheat, corn, cotton, vegetables

The following provides a general overview of the primary monitoring and assessment research topics pursued by the sites:

Crop identification and Crop Area Estimation

Virtually all sites are concerned with crop identification and crop inventory. The type, location and extent of crops are fundamental information required for policy, food security programs and other agri-environmental health investigations. Crop inventory is an input to production estimates and yield analysis. Methods are based on optical and radar imagery.

Crop Condition/Stress

Many sites are interested in crop condition and stress collected in real, or near real time throughout the growing season. Generally these are based on optical imagery to produce crop parameters (i.e. NDVI, LAI, FPAR) that are indicative of primary production and crop condition. Radar can also be applied to assess parameters associated with crop structure and measure soil moisture. These parameters can be compared to the same crop growth stage in past years to derive estimates of current crop condition. For example, this type of information can be used to develop qualitative assessments of current crop condition as compared to drought years, and can also be used as inputs to yield forecast models.


Yield Prediction and Forecasting

Crop yield is a critical parameter required for food security policy and programs. This information is required along with crop type and extent to forecast food production estimates. Early prediction of crop yield can support proactive response to regional food shortages. Many yield models use both optical and radar data along with other biophysical characteristics (i.e. soil moisture, climate condition)


Crop Residue, Tillage and Crop Cover Mapping

The timing, type and extent of tillage and how residue is managed can have a significant impact on the health of the soil resource. Consequently, on most agricultural landscapes, crop residue and tillage are indicative of environmental condition. Further, tillage and residue information can be used as model inputs to estimate carbon sequestration, critical to carbon accounting and climate change mitigation efforts. Research is focussed on applying both radar and optical imagery to support residue and tillage monitoring.


Climate Variability and Climate Change

Agricultural systems take place within a finite range of environmental conditions. As such agriculture is susceptible to short term climate fluctuations and longer term climate change.  Optical and radar imagery can be used to estimate the impact of climate events on food production (i.e. drought, floods, disease); as stated above, support mitigation programs; and,   can also be used to develop, test and implement adaptation strategies such as changing crop selection, agricultural management practices and migration of agricultural to new regions.