Looking Ahead: GEOGLAM in 2016

GEOGLAM looks to expand data sharing, refine and evolve the Crop Monitor, and grow community in the developing world during the next year.

This map is an example of early results using Sentinel-1A to monitor rice in the Mekong Delta. The multi-national Asia-RiCE team uses Sentinel-1 data, along with ALOS-2, Radarsat-2, TerraSAR-X, and TanDEM-X – exemplifying how international collaboration and inter-space-agency coordination can make a difference in advancing the use of Earth observation for agricultural monitoring. Image Credit: Asia-RiCE

This map is an example of early results using Sentinel-1A to monitor rice in the Mekong Delta. The multi-national Asia-RiCE team uses Sentinel-1 data, along with ALOS-2, Radarsat-2, TerraSAR-X, and TanDEM-X – exemplifying how international collaboration and inter-space-agency coordination can make a difference in advancing the use of Earth observation for agricultural monitoring. Image Credit: Asia-RiCE


In 2015, Group on Earth Observations Global Agricultural Monitoring (GEOGLAM) enjoyed a productive year, convening scientific and outreach sessions at the IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing Society meeting in Italy, the International Society for Digital Earth meeting in Canada, the American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting in the United States, and GEO Plenary XII in Mexico.

Additionally, the GEOGLAM initiative is continuing growth and evolution of the Crop Monitor, and beginning to reap the benefits of enhanced satellite coverage as enabled by the new Sentinel missions from the European Space Agency and others. GEOGLAM will carry this momentum into 2016 through a number of activities.

GEOGLAM’s system of systems leverages ground-based observations and data from acquired by satellites from several nations and to develop national-to-global scale detailed crop condition information. GEOGLAM then provides the means to produce international consensus reports on global crop conditions (click here to read further about this initiative to end poverty and hunger) vis-à-vis its Crop Monitors.

The Early Warning Crop Monitor (EWCM) is an analog to the Crop Monitor for the Agricultural Market Information System (CM for AMIS), focused instead on countries at risk of food insecurity. Further, while the CM for AMIS focuses on the four major grain crops – wheat, rice, maize, and soybean – in main producer countries, the EWCM focuses on regionally relevant crops, and their conditions and drivers, in countries most vulnerable to food shortages.

In February 2016, the EWCM will release its first prototype report on crop conditions highlighting potential hotspots, with contributions from a variety of organizations including USAID’s Famine Early Warning Systems Network, European Commission Joint Research Centre’s Monitoring Agricultural ResourceS (MARS), World Food Programme, and the UN Food and Agricultural Organization. The EWCM is coordinated by the University of Maryland Crop Monitor team, led by Inbal Becker-Reshef on behalf of the GEOGLAM Secretariat.

These reports align with GEOGLAM’s focus on contributing to broad-based international efforts toward ending hunger, stabilizing markets, and promoting sustainable agriculture. GEOGLAM also plans to release a map from the EWCM in conjunction with the prototype report.

The 2014 launch of Sentinel-1, a C-Band synthetic aperture radar (SAR) system, has changed the state of SAR-based remote sensing. GEOGLAM’s rice-focused activity Asia-RiCE, as well as numerous members of the agricultural test site networks in Joint Experiment on Crop Assessment and Monitoring (JECAM), and Stimulating Innovation for the Global Monitoring of Agriculture (SIGMA) have begun utilizing this cloud-free data for agricultural monitoring in multiple landscapes uniquely provided by SAR systems.

The JECAM network, which spans the globe, has launched a multi-site SAR-intercomparison study with Canadian (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada) leadership, which will facilitate the development of best practices for monitoring across the globe. GEOGLAM also anticipates the benefit of increased temporal coverage of moderate spatial resolution optical data as Sentinel-2 data start to become more widely available.

The Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS) has coordinated satellite data for a number of research and development projects (including the aforementioned SAR-intercomparison study), and will in 2016 begin scaling up acquisitions for broader coverage in Southeast Asia. CEOS also is helping GEOGLAM overcome barriers to data access (particularly in the developing world) through the prototyping of cloud-based data services.

Secondly, under Australian (CSIRO) leadership, the GEOGLAM Rangeland and Pasture Productivity project aims to enhance the use of Earth observations data for the monitoring of rangelands and pastures, as they impact meat production and food security. In 2016, RAPP’s focus will be on further growing its community of practice, establishing their own test site network, and defining their EO data requirements.

Coordination on a regional level allows countries with similar climates, cropping systems, and priorities to grow and implement Earth observations for agricultural monitoring. With leadership from Carlos di Bella (INTA – Argentina), a Latin American GEOGLAM was established at GEO Plenary XII in Mexico, with workshops planned for 2016.

This map shows the extent of the JECAM initiative. Gaps in Southeast Asia are partially covered by the Asia-RiCE technical demonstration sites. The network is always expanding, both geographically and thematically, as a strong research and development component is essential to any operational monitoring program. Image Credit: GEOGLAM

This map shows the extent of the JECAM initiative. Gaps in Southeast Asia are partially covered by the Asia-RiCE technical demonstration sites. The network is always expanding, both geographically and thematically, as a strong research and development component is essential to any operational monitoring program. Image Credit: GEOGLAM

GEOGLAM also plans to convene its fourth session at the American Geophysical Union fall conference in San Francisco from Dec. 12-16.

Click here to read a previous article about GEOGLAM’s collaborative work in Earth observations, and here to read about the turning point in agricultural monitoring.

Alyssa Whitcraft is an assistant research professor at University of Maryland and a program scientist at the Group on Earth Observations Global Agricultural Monitoring initiative.

This article has been updated to clarify some of its content.

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