There’s no easy way to track all of the world’s crops. What’s missing, among other things, is an accurate map showing where they are. But now, a game is turning people into citizen scientists to help identify cropland. (NPR)
Use our MapMaker Interactive to understand cropland and other land cover.
- Why might agricultural ecologists and farmers be interested in more accurate maps of land cover?
- Identifying cropland might help farmers increase production. “We know, for example, in Africa, there are huge yield gaps. This means you could produce much more food in certain places in Africa, but we don’t even know where exactly the cropland is,” says one source quoted in the NPR article.
- The USGS thinks it’s so important there’s an entire institute (and Twitter feed!) dedicated to it. (Sean and Livia, how soon before you’re followers?)
- Play a few rounds of “Cropland Capture.” What features identify cropland in an area?
- neatly marked fields
- uniform vegetation
- general lack of trees (except along borders of cropland)
- general lack of houses, roads, or other infrastructure
- general uniform elevation—few mountains or valleys
- Play a few more rounds of “Cropland Capture.” In addition to cropland, what other types of land cover can you spot? Take a look at the short information box accompanying our MapMaker Interactive’s land cover layer to familiarize yourself with types of land cover.
- Most Cropland Capture images that don’t feature obvious areas of cropland feature undeveloped forest, shrubland, or bare ground. Some images feature urban areas, often bordering cropland or undeveloped regions. Few photos seem to feature deserts or large bodies of water.
- A more accurate map of the world’s land cover could “be used by organizations on the ground that work with farmers to manage their crops better and get more out of each harvest,” according to a source quoted in the NPR article. Look at our map of land cover in sub-Saharan Africa. Where is (mapped) cropland presently located? (You might want to adjust the transparency to help identify countries or regions.)
- Most sub-Saharan cropland is found in South Africa, Madagascar, Ethiopia, and the region in the northern Gulf of Guinea (particularly the southern parts of the nations of Ghana, Togo, Benin, and Nigeria).
4 thoughts on “Spot the Crop”