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CropWatch Research Team Releases Global Crop Production Assessment Bulletin
 Date: 2013-11-20  Page Views:

On November 20, the CropWatch research team at the Institute of Remote Sensing and Digital Earth (RADI), Chinese Academy of Sciences, for the first time releases its global crop production assessment to an international audience. The released report, the "CropWatch bulletin", presents 2013 global production estimates for wheat, maize, soybean, and wheat, along with an analysis of environmental and production factors, for major producing regions as well as individual countries.

With the release of the report in both English and Chinese, China joins a small group of international actors involved in global crop forecasting. The bulletin’s release enhances international collaboration on food security and provides vital and transparent information for global and national agricultural markets. Moreover, the bulletin’s analysis uniquely takes advantage of the high-quality data from the Chinese meteorological (FY-2/3) and environmental (HJ-1 CCD) satellites, combining it with innovative methodologies developed by the CropWatch research team.   

“All major food producers and consumers crucially depend on timely and accurate information on production,” says Prof. Bingfang Wu, promoter of the initiative and head of the CropWatch team at RADI, where the CropWatch monitoring system has been developed and operated over the last fifteen years. “Other international and some national players also issue similar analyses, but our contribution increases transparency and reliability of global production estimates by making available an additional independent source of information to the international community.” Wu further adds that, unlike other global production estimates, the one issued by CropWatch highly relies on satellite data and also is completely transparent, as full details on methods and data sources, including foreign and Chinese satellites, are provided in the 136 pages of the report and on its new Website,

The new CropWatch bulletin is part of the Global Agricultural Monitoring (GeoGLAM) initiative set up by the G20 in 2011 to improve access to consensual global information about the worldwide availability of major cereals and soybean; it is also China’s first systematic contribution to the G20 Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS).

Global averages for 2013 maize, rice and soybean production; increase for global wheat production

The team of scientists led by Wu estimates that the 2013 crop production season is best described as globally average for rice, maize and soybean, while wheat did generally better. The CropWatch estimate for the global production of main crops is as follows: wheat, 705 million tons, up 4.1 percent over 2012 estimates; rice as paddy, 739 million tons, up 1.6 percent; maize, 944 million tons, up 0.3 percent; and soybean, 202 million tons, an increase of 1.2 percent compared with 2012.

“Next to overall production, CropWatch pays particular attention to main producers and exporters, as their performance largely conditions the behavior of international markets,” says Wu. He adds that CropWatch analyses confirm the poor performance of the traditional first wheat exporter, the United States, with a decrease of 5.9 percent in wheat output over last years’. China itself produced 107 million tons of wheat this year, down 0.2 percent from the last season. The national rice production is almost exactly 100 million tons larger than the wheat output, but the change from the last season is a slight increase of 0.7 percent. As in several other parts of the world, adverse climatic conditions are directly responsible for the modest performance of the current season, essentially a cold wave in spring that affected winter wheat, and several tropical storms during summer that depressed rice yields. The effect on maize, however, was less marked, as production in China increased 2.3 percent.

Finally, soybean is the fourth crop covered in detail in the CropWatch analyses. Only three countries, the United States, Brazil and Argentina, normally supply about 90 percent of the marketed amounts. Their accumulated production is up 1.6 percent over the previous season, while the Chinese production underwent a decrease of 3.5 percent.

Prof. Wu further explains that the CropWatch assessments are based on a combination of qualitative and quantitative indicators and models, some of them put to use for the first time in a global assessment; global environmental conditions have been assessed very accurately at different spatial scales. Wu also stresses that the scope of CropWatch goes beyond monitoring and that global food security is at the heart of the concerns of CropWatch, which is why all countries, not only major producers, have been included, in particular four out of the five most populated African countries.

“We are committed to issuing accurate and timely global food production estimates,” adds Wu, “and we intend to provide an independent assessment to serve the Chinese government and domestic users. But we do not forget that many poor countries depend on international commodity markets to feed their populations. Many of them cannot afford an advanced monitoring system such as CropWatch. We also intend to serve them.”

The bulletin, which has been regularly issued by the Institute for the last fifteen years, will from now on appear quarterly in both English and Chinese.

Corresponding author: Professor Bingfang Wu

Institute of Remote Sensing and Digital Earth, Chinese Academy of Sciences

Fax: +8610-64858721; E-mail:,



                                                               Crop condition map for China.



                                                  Biomass departure from long term average - South and Southeast Asia.



                                              Cropped and uncropped distribution map-North America.



                                                Cropping intensity for South America.



                                          VHI cluster for Central Europe and western Russia.




                                               Annual temperature for global crop production system zones.



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