This study examines the suitability of 250 m MODIS (MODerate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) data for mapping global cropland extent. A set of 39 multi-year MODIS metrics incorporating four MODIS land bands, NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index) and thermal data was employed to depict cropland phenology over the study period. Sub-pixel training datasets were used to generate a set of global classification tree models using a bagging methodology, resulting in a global per-pixel cropland probability layer. This product was subsequently thresholded to create a discrete cropland/non-cropland indicator map using data from the USDA-FAS (Foreign Agricultural Service) Production, Supply and Distribution (PSD) database describing per-country acreage of production field crops. Five global land cover products, four of which attempted to map croplands in the context of multiclass land cover classifications, were subsequently used to perform regional evaluations of the global MODIS cropland extent map. The global probability layer was further examined with reference to four principle global food crops: corn, soybeans, wheat and rice. Overall results indicate that the MODIS layer best depicts regions of intensive broadleaf crop production (corn and soybean), both in correspondence with existing maps and in associated high probability matching thresholds. Probability thresholds for wheat-growing regions were lower, while areas of rice production had the lowest associated confidence. Regions absent of agricultural intensification, such as Africa, are poorly characterized regardless of crop type. The results reflect the value of MODIS as a generic global cropland indicator for intensive agriculture production regions, but with little sensitivity in areas of low agricultural intensification. Variability in mapping accuracies between areas dominated by different crop types also points to the desirability of a crop-specific approach rather than attempting to map croplands in aggregate.