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Departments & Programs


Identifying constraints to regional crop yields

One of the most remarkable aspects of modern agriculture is that yields in farmers' fields vary widely, with average yields in a region consistently 30% or more below yields achieved on some fields. Equally remarkable is that if you ask 10 farmers why this is, or why their particular fields did not yield more, you will likely get 10 different answers. Part of the reason is that dozens of factors are at play in determining yield, and different farmers will have experienced different combinations of these factors. To gain a better grasp on which factors are most important for a given region and cropping system, we have developed techniques that combine remote sensing and field observations to generate very large datasets that essentially pool the experiences of all farmers. Statistical analyses of these datasets can then be used to measure the role of any individual factor, or to identify the few factors most deserve attention for raising regional productivity.


Related Recent Publications

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, in press

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