Developing Earth Observations Requirements for Global Agricultural Monitoring: Toward a Multi-Mission Data Acquisition Strategy

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Global food supply and our understanding of it have never been more important than in today's changing world. For several decades, Earth observations (EO) have been employed to monitor agriculture, including crop area, type, condition, and yield forecasting processes, at multiple scales. However, the EO data requirements to consistently derive these informational products had not been well defined. Responding to this dearth, I have articulated spatially explicit EO requirements with a focus on moderate resolution (10-70m) active and passive remote sensors, and evaluate current and near-term missions' capabilities to meet these EO requirements.

To accomplish this, periods requiring monitoring have been identified through the development of agricultural growing season calendars (GSCs) at 0.5 degrees from MODIS surface reflectance. Second, a global analysis of cloud presence probability and extent using MOD09 daily cloud flags over 2000-2012 has shown that the early-to-mid agricultural growing season (AGS) - an important period for monitoring - is more persistently and pervasively occluded by clouds than is the late and non-AGS. Third, spectral, spatial, and temporal resolution data requirements have been developed through collaboration with international agricultural monitoring experts. These requirements have been spatialized through the incorporation of the GSCs and cloud cover information, establishing the revisit frequency required to yield reasonably clear views within 8 or 16 days. A comparison of these requirements with hypothetical constellations formed from current/planned moderate resolution optical EO missions shows that to yield a scene at least 70% clear within 8 or 16 days, 46-55% or 10-32% of areas, respectively, need a revisit more frequent than Landsat 7 & 8 combined can deliver. Supplementing Landsat 7 & 8 with missions from different space agencies leads to an improved capacity to meet requirements, with Resourcesat-2 providing the largest incremental improvement in requirements met. No single mission/observatory can consistently meet requirements throughout the year, and the only way to meet a majority (77-94% for ≥70% clear; 47-73% for 100% clear) of 8 day requirements is through coordination of multiple missions. Still, gaps exist in persistently cloudy regions and periods, highlighting the need for data coordination and for consideration of active EO for agricultural monitoring.