New maps offer clearer view of global agriculture

Washington: To know precisely where agricultural land is located for regional and global food security planning, two new maps offer a clearer view of global agriculture.

The maps have been developed by Austria-based International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) and Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

The first map shows global cropland percentages at one-km resolution for the year 2005.

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

The study also presents the first ever global field-size map – an important proxy for mechanisation and human development.

This map was based entirely on crowd sourced data collected through IIASA’s Geo-Wiki project that looked at thousands of high resolution images of land cover to determine whether cropland was present or not.

“The field size map is really unique – no such global product currently exists,” added IIASA researcher and co-author Linda See.

According to the researchers, the new maps show the power of crowd sourcing for massive data analysis projects.

The study appeared in the journal Global Change Biology.