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Finding farmland: New maps offer a clearer view of global agriculture

16 January 2015

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A new global cropland map combines multiple satellite data sources, reconciled using crowdsourced accuracy checks, to provide an improved record of total cropland extent as well as field size around the world.

Knowing where agricultural land is located is crucial for regional and global food security planning, and information on field size offers valuable insight into local economic conditions. Two new global maps, released in the journal Global Change Biology, provide a significant step forward in global cropland information on these two topics.

The first map shows global cropland percentages at 1 kilometre resolution for the year 2005. It was developed by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) using a hybridszation of multiple data sources contributed by many other institutes and organisations, combined with crowdsourcing validation data where volunteers used high-resolution data to check the accuracy of larger-scale maps.

"Current sources of information on cropland extent are not accurate enough for most applications," says IIASA researcher Steffen Fritz, who led the project. "The global cropland map is a low cost solution to fill this need."

IIASA researcher and co-author Linda See adds, "Our hybrid approach combines existing maps to produce a better integrated product than any of the individual global base maps currently available."

Source: International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

Image credit: IIASA Geo-Wiki Project, Google - Global cropland map over Africa