Monday, February 2, 2015

Mapping cropping intensity of smallholder farms: A comparison of methods using multiple sensors

The rise of the population in developing countries has increased significantly in recent decades.  Small farmers (2 hectares or less) total half the population in the rural regions of developing countries.  The crops harvested by these farmers total 90% of their nations food staples.
Unfortunately, small farmers are vulnerable to drought, market instability and climate change.  Unlike large farms in developed nations, small farmers do not have access to funding, technology or nutrient for their crops.  Therefore, these farms are being monitored using satellite imagery and GIS software to ensure a successful harvest or face a possible famine.
There are three different methods that can be used to measure the size and density of farms and their crops: high-resolution images, Landsat and Modi.  Even with these programs and satellite images measuring the correct size of these farms has proved to be difficult.  In order to get an accurate measurement all three methods need to be used to analyze the crops and the environment surrounding them.
The authors studied Gujart and Madhya Pradesh in India using all three methods to get accurate information.  The diagram below shows the data collected from both regions.  It shows that scientists cannot get an accurate reading of a region solely relying on one technique and exclude the others.

 It shows that high-resolution images, Landsat and Modi have their strengths and limitations but when combined it can be accurate.  With an ever-growing world population the need for food sustainability and food security has become a priority.  

Jain, M., Mondal, P., DeFries, R. S., Small, C., & Galford, G. L. (2013). Mapping cropping intensity of smallholder farms: A comparison of methods using multiple sensors. Remote Sensing of Environment134, 210-223.


  1. Having monitored fields is a great idea for farmers and a great way to monitor growth with in the land. Based on the information gathered using GIS methods, is there any chance that farmers could use that information to receive support from larger farming corporations?

  2. It is a great idea to monitor fields of farmers, as Yesenia stated. It is also very smart to utilize all of the three methods in order to measure the size and density of the crops of the fields. GIS is an ever-evolving technology, and this study is a great example of how it can be used in many ways, as well as how different methodologies involved in GIS can be utilized together.

  3. These are such great tools to monitor small farms and measure their yields, and I think it is interesting that all three methods are employed in order to gain an accurate reading. Can this technology be used to help these small farmers in any way? For example, can the technology be used to help them prepare for harsh conditions or give farmers information that allows them to produce greater yields? Could this technology also be used in areas other than farming?

  4. The idea of using GIS to map crop density and farm size is very useful, however I think this can be improved and made even more useful by adding another layer to the maps. If we were to layer a map showing rainfall and risk of drought for an area as well as the location of farms and their crop density, people could better plan where to put their farms or to change what they grow in order to adjust to the climate/drought risk of that area. This way, the agricultural success of the area could be improved and customized to the natural conditions of the area.

  5. The crops in this study “…total 90% of their nations food staples”, however, the aggregate contributions of these farmers is not clear in this review. The vulnerability of these small farmers may be monitored by these programs and satellite images, but if there were significant environmental disturbances, how would the government or other economic institutions help these farms?

  6. I know anyone can be a smallholding farmer, but seeing as India is not really a developing country, what is the standing of such farming? Is it to give people a chance to live a rural lifestyle or is it a way of supporting a family? Probably a combination of both.