Profiling Fallow Land in California’s Drought Conditions Using the Cropland Data Layer

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 4:45 PM
Audra Zakzeski, USDA Washington DC, Washington, DC, United States
Drought conditions caused by soaring temperatures and decreasing amounts of precipitation continue to plague the particularly heavily cultivated areas of California. Research efforts from state and federal government stakeholders are ongoing to track, quantify, and forecast the impact of these changing conditions. For the State of California, beginning in 2007, the US Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) annually began using remote sensing techniques to produce a geospatial agricultural land cover classification data product called the Cropland Data Layer (CDL). The CDL is produced using current farmer reported data in conjunction with satellite imagery collected during the summer growing season each year to identify the type and location of multiple categories of land cover across the state. Tracking the impact of drought conditions on agriculture in California can be done by analyzing the land cover category for fallow and idle agricultural land within the CDL. Using multiple years of CDLs, profiles are created to document the different characteristics of fallow land across the agricultural landscape including NDVI measurements, average field sizes, and total acreage amounts in each county. The fallow land profiles also detail the increasing amount of fallow land appearing in what was historically agricultural intensive areas, as well as what types of land cover are being replaced with fallow land instead of being cultivated during the growing season. Understanding the dynamic changes of fallowing land in each county helps researchers quantify the agricultural impact and assist with mitigation efforts caused by the water shortages.