Cropland accounts for nearly 12 percent of the planet’s ice-free land surface. In our age of broad data coming from satellite remote sensing, aerial photos or spatial information for crop growing locations helps improve spatial understanding of crop production systems for climate change impact monitoring and rural development. However, many researchers and policymakers are still struggling with the lack of consistent and invalid spatial information on crops, or the limited availability of data at national or subnational level.
A number of sophisticated products that generate a global distribution of crop area and production were developed in the last decade. One of the global cropping systems was developed by the IFPRI (International Food Policy Research Institute) and it’s called SPAM (Spatial Production Allocation Model). According to IFPRI,
“The model aims to generate highly disaggregated, crop-specific production data by triangulation of all relevant background information from crop statistics, satellite data on land cover, maps of irrigated areas, biophysical crop suitability assessments, population density, and secondary data on irrigation and rain fed production systems, cropping intensity, and crop prices.”
The product was formally adopted in 2007 and tested in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa to support spatial heterogeneity by evaluating technical changes in agriculture by crop allocation through a combination of satellite imagery and statistics for major crops and an irrigation map. The data inputs are mainly coming from sub-national production statistics, land-cover / land-use, crop suitability and population density.
The Crop Maps are free to download in many ways and in different variables (harvested area, physical area, production, and yield).