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Open AccessArticle

Global Crop Monitoring: A Satellite-Based Hierarchical Approach

Division for Digital Agriculture, Key Laboratory of Digital Earth Science, Institute of Remote Sensing and Digital Earth (RADI), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), Olympic Village Science Park, W. Beichen Road, Beijing 100101, China
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Yoshio Inoue and Prasad S. Thenkabail
Remote Sens. 2015, 7(4), 3907-3933;
Received: 29 September 2014 / Revised: 7 March 2015 / Accepted: 17 March 2015 / Published: 1 April 2015
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Remote Sensing in Food Production and Food Security)
PDF [35033 KB, uploaded 1 April 2015]


Taking advantage of multiple new remote sensing data sources, especially from Chinese satellites, the CropWatch system has expanded the scope of its international analyses through the development of new indicators and an upgraded operational methodology. The approach adopts a hierarchical system covering four spatial levels of detail: global, regional, national (thirty-one key countries including China) and “sub-countries” (for the nine largest countries). The thirty-one countries encompass more that 80% of both production and exports of maize, rice, soybean and wheat. The methodology resorts to climatic and remote sensing indicators at different scales. The global patterns of crop environmental growing conditions are first analyzed with indicators for rainfall, temperature, photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) as well as potential biomass. At the regional scale, the indicators pay more attention to crops and include Vegetation Health Index (VHI), Vegetation Condition Index (VCI), Cropped Arable Land Fraction (CALF) as well as Cropping Intensity (CI). Together, they characterize crop situation, farming intensity and stress. CropWatch carries out detailed crop condition analyses at the national scale with a comprehensive array of variables and indicators. The Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), cropped areas and crop conditions are integrated to derive food production estimates. For the nine largest countries, CropWatch zooms into the sub-national units to acquire detailed information on crop condition and production by including new indicators (e.g., Crop type proportion). Based on trend analysis, CropWatch also issues crop production supply outlooks, covering both long-term variations and short-term dynamic changes in key food exporters and importers. The hierarchical approach adopted by CropWatch is the basis of the analyses of climatic and crop conditions assessments published in the quarterly “CropWatch bulletin” which provides accurate and timely information essential to food producers, traders and consumers. View Full-Text
Keywords: CropWatch; global crop monitoring; remote sensing CropWatch; global crop monitoring; remote sensing

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Wu, B.; Gommes, R.; Zhang, M.; Zeng, H.; Yan, N.; Zou, W.; Zheng, Y.; Zhang, N.; Chang, S.; Xing, Q.; Van Heijden, A. Global Crop Monitoring: A Satellite-Based Hierarchical Approach. Remote Sens. 2015, 7, 3907-3933.

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