University of Maryland, College Park, College Park, United States
A primary focus of agricultural land use is on crop production for trading on commodity markets. Croplands account for approximately 11 percent of global land cover, the majority used for cereal production, with wheat as a primary crop. Satellite observations have long been proposed as an effective means to monitor agricultural lands and their production. Yet despite several national and international agricultural monitoring systems, there is still a lack of reliable and timely information on grain commodities. The need for such information is internationally recognized and is highlighted in several recent reports, in particular in the June 2011 G20 Action Plan on Food Price Volatility and Agriculture. The recent volatility in global grain markets has brought the issue of food security to the forefront of government agendas. Between 2006 and 2011 grain prices soared twice leading to civil unrest with food riots in over 40 countries, and according to FAO estimates, pushing an additional 140 people million below the poverty line. Clearly improving our monitoring of fluctuations in crop production and their implications in a socio-economic context is fundamental for governing and managing world food supplies and could potentially play a critical role in stabilizing grain markets, developing effective agricultural policies, mobilizing aid in response to impending regional food shortages, and contribute to averting social instability. Recent improvements in remotely-sensed datasets provide an opportunity to enhance methods for global agriculture monitoring. We propose an exploratory project to examine the feasibility of generating timely and reliable satellite-based information on wheat production at national scales for the primary wheat export countries assess the potential value of such information for reducing grain market volatility and thereby potentially reducing the associated food riots and civil unrest in vulnerable nations. We will focus specifically on wheat production estimation at national scales for a small number of countries that are responsible for the majority of global wheat exports. This project has assembled an integrated team of remote sensing and social scientists with national and international operationally oriented partners focused on agricultural monitoring. We will build on approaches from the fields of agricultural remote sensing, agricultural economics, data mining and decision science, and public policy and conflict studies. The project will be comprised of three elements: i) development of a robust earth observations (EO) based approach to timely wheat production forecasting at the national scale ii) a simulation and empirically based assessment of potential price sensitivity to forecast errors and their impacts on market stability iii) examination of the relationship between the availability and quality of agricultural production information, price fluctuations and civil unrest. This study will utilize a range of earth observations data at multiple resolutions time series of wheat production forecasts and end of season statistics on yield, area, consumption, imports, exports and grain stocks data on grain price, and grain trade flows and civil unrest data from zones of instability, historic violence trends, and primary socioeconomic and political violence indicators.