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Mapping croplands of Europe, Middle East, Russia, and Central Asia using Landsat 30-m data, machine learning algorithms and Google Earth Engine

July 18, 2020

Accurate and timely information on croplands is important for environmental, food security, and policy studies. Spatially explicit cropland datasets are also required to derive information on crop type, crop yield, cropping intensity, as well as irrigated areas. Large area defined as continental to global cropland mapping is challenging due to differential manifestation of croplands, wide range of cultivation practices and limited reference data availability. This study presents the results of a cropland extent mapping of 64 Countriescovering large parts of Europe, Middle East, Russia and Central Asia. To cover such a vast area, roughly 160,000 Landsat scenes from 3,351 footprints between 2014 and 2016 were processed within the Google Earth Engine (GEE) cloud-platform. We used the pixel-based supervised Random Forest (RF) machine learning algorithm with a set of satellite data inputs capturing diverse spectral, temporal and topographical characteristics across twelve agroecological zones (AEZs). The reference data to train the classification model were collected from very high spatial resolution imagery (VHRI) and ancillary datasets. The result is a binary map showing cultivated/non-cultivated areas ca. 2015. The map produced an overall accuracy of 94 percent with roughly 14 percent omission and commission errors for the cropland class based on a large set of independent validation samples. The map suggests the entire study area has a total 546 million hectares (Mha) of croplands occupying 18 percent of the land area. Comparison between national cropland area estimates from United Nations Food and Agricultural Organizations (FAO) and those derived from this work also showed an R-square value of 0.95. For the entire Landsat-derived 30-m product the overall accuracy was 93.8% with cropland class providing producers accuracy of 86.5% (errors of omissions = 13.5%) and users accuracy of 85.7% (errors of commissions = 14.3%). This Landsat-derived 30-m cropland product (GFSAD30) provided 10-30% greater cropland areas compared to UN FAO in the 64 Countries. Finally, the map-to-map comparison between GFSAD30 with several other cropland products revealed that the best similarity matrix was with the 30m global land cover (GLC30) product providing an overall accuracy of 88.8 percent (Kappa 0.7) with producers cropland similarity of 89.2 percent (errors of omissions = 10.8%) and users cropland similarity of 81.8 percent (errors of commissions = 8.1%). GFSAD30 captured the missing croplands in GLC30 product around significantly irrigated agricultural areas in Germany and Belgium and rainfed agriculture in Italy. This study also established that the real strength of GFSAD30 product, compared to other products, were in: 1. Identifying precise location of croplands, and 2. Capturing fragmented croplands. The cropland extent map dataset is available through NASAs Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center (LP DAAC) at, while the training and reference data as well as visualization are available at the Global Croplands website.

Publication Year 2020
Title Mapping croplands of Europe, Middle East, Russia, and Central Asia using Landsat 30-m data, machine learning algorithms and Google Earth Engine
DOI 10.1016/j.isprsjprs.2020.06.022
Authors Aparna Phalke, Mutlu Ozdogan, Prasad Thenkabail, Tyler Erickson, Noel Gorelick
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing
Index ID 70211221
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Geographic Science Center