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Departments & Programs


Making use of big data for food security

New data derived from satellites, insurance records, social media, and other sources can help us better understand agriculture and food security. These data aren't perfect, but their low cost, timeliness, and abundance make them very powerful.

Currently, we have projects in this area focused on sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and the United States. Some of these are described in posts on our blog at For example, a post on using satellites to track the persistence of farmer performance or on using insurance and weather records to track the drought sensitivity of corn. The blog is typically updated much more frequently than this website, so look there for more information. 

Related Publications

(Note: for a regularly updated list of publications, see here

Sibley, A., P. Grassini, N. Thomas. K. Cassman, and D.B. Lobell. Testing remote sensing approaches for assessing yield variability among maize fields, Agronomy Journal, 2014

Lobell, D.B., 2013. The use of satellite data for crop yield gap analysis. Field Crops Research, 143, 56-64

Lobell, D.B., Ortiz-Monasterio, J.I., Sibley, A.M., & Sohu, V.S. 2013. Satellite
detection of earlier wheat sowing in India and implications for yield trends.
Agricultural Systems, 115, 137-143

Seifert, C., Ortiz-Monasterio, J.I. and Lobell, D.B., 2011. Satellite-Based Detection of Salinity and Sodicity Impacts on Wheat Production in the Mexicali Valley. Soil
Science Society of America Journal
, 75(2): 699.

Lobell, D.B., Ortiz-Monasterio, J.I. and Lee, A.S., 2010. Satellite evidence for yield
growth opportunities in Northwest India. Field
Crops Research
, 118: 13-20.

Lobell, D.B., S.M. Lesch, D.L. Corwin, M.G. Ulmer, K.A. Anderson, D.J. Potts, J.A.
Doolittle, M.R. Matos, and M.J. Baltes. 2009. Regional-scale Assessment of Soil
Salinity in the Red River Valley Using Multi-year MODIS EVI and NDVI. J. Environ. Qual. 39:35-41.

Lobell, D.B., K.G. Cassman, and C.B.Field. 2009. Crop Yield Gaps: Their Importance,
Magnitudes, and Causes. Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 34:4.1-4.26.


Selected Project Descriptions

  1. Studying crop yield constraints from space in Punjab, India
  2. Mapping the severity of soil salinity in the Red River Valley
  3. Mapping the impacts of soil salinity on wheat yields in Mexicali, Mexico