Global patterns of the trends in satellite-derived crop yield proxy, temperature and soil moisture

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Toru Sakai, Toshichika Iizumi, Gen Sakurai, Masashi Okada and Motoki Nishimori, NIAES National Institute for Agro-Environmental Sciences, Tsukuba, Japan
Crop productivity (yield) is sensitive to climate variability and change. To inform stakeholders, including food agencies in food-importing countries, about future variations in food supply associated with climate variability and change, understanding major climatic drivers of the spatiotemporal variations in crop yield over global cropland during the last few decades is crucial. Although remote sensing has difficulty distinguishing individual crops and misses entire cropping cycles in areas where extensive cloud cover during the monsoon limits satellite observations, it is still useful in deriving a proxy of crop yield over large spatial domain and estimating the impacts on crop yield proxy due to climate, including land-surface temperature and surface-layer soil moisture. This study presents an attempt to globally depict the impact of climate change on crop yield proxy by applying a time series analysis to MODIS and AMSR-E satellite images. The crop yield proxy used was the annual maximum or integrated MODIS-derived NDVI during the growing period predefined on the basis of the global crop calendar. The trends in the crop yield proxy in the interval 2001–2013 appeared positive in higher latitudes and negative in lower latitudes. In higher latitudes (and thus colder regions), the increased land-surface temperature led to an increase in crop yield in part due to the enhanced photosynthesis rate. In contrast, the crop yield proxy showed negative correlation with land-surface temperature in lower latitudes. The increased temperature might decrease crop yield by increasing evapotranspiration rate, plant respiration and/or heat stress. The crop yield proxy was also correlated with the AMSR-E-derived soil moisture, although the geographical distribution of soil moisture was highly heterogeneous.