Monitoring rice agriculture across Myanmar using satellite data
This article in the Remote Sensing Journal highlights new opportunities for monitoring agriculture. Assessment and monitoring of rice agriculture over large areas has been limited by cloud cover, optical sensor spatial and temporal resolutions, and lack of systematic or open access radar. The use of dense time series of open access Sentinel-1 C-band data at moderate spatial resolution offers innovative opportunities for assessment and monitoring of agriculture. This is especially pertinent in South and Southeast Asia where rice is critical to food security and mostly grown during the rainy seasons when high cloud cover is present. In this research application, time series Sentinel-1A Interferometric Wide images (632) were utilized to map rice extent, crop calendar, inundation, and cropping intensity across Myanmar. An updated (2015) land use land cover map fusing Sentinel-1, Landsat-8 OLI, and PALSAR-2 were integrated and classified using a randomforest algorithm. Time series phenological analyses of the dense Sentinel-1 data were then executed to assess rice information across all of Myanmar. The broad land use land cover map identified 186,701 km2 of cropland across Myanmar with mean out-of-sample kappa of over 90%. A phenological time series analysis refined the cropland class to create a rice mask by extrapolating unique indicators tied to the rice life cycle (dynamic range, inundation, growth stages) from the dense time series Sentinel-1 to map rice paddy characteristics in an automated approach. Analyses show that the harvested rice area was 6,652,111 ha with general (R2 = 0.78) agreement with government census statistics. The outcomes show strong ability to assess and monitor rice production at moderate scales over a large cloud-prone region. In countries such as Myanmar with large populations and governments dependent upon rice production, more robust and transparent monitoring and assessment tools can help support better decision making. These results indicate that systematic and open access Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) can help scale information required by food security initiatives and Monitoring, Reporting, and Verification programs.