Regional scale mapping and monitoring of cropping intensities, productivity, and degradation patterns prompted alternative land uses
Quantification of agricultural productivity for bridging yield gaps and targeting interventions more effectively
Online data visualization system based on geoinformatics technology developed to help analyze agricultural landscapes
A new decadal database on land use and land cover dynamics developed in Jordan

Big Data and ICT are revolutionizing research. Last year, ICARDA harnessed geoinformatics, remote sensing, and the outpouring of data from molecular research in multiple ways – from real-time maps of crop productivity and water consumption to the more accurate targeting of genetic improvements in breeding programs.

ICARDA uses Big Data and ICT to enhance the efficiency of its research and guide effective policymaking. We also realize that the impacts of Big Data and ICT can be more valuable if they are shared with others – reflected in ICARDA's commitment to open access initiatives and extensive cooperation with partners.

In 2017, ICARDA continued to invest in its geoinformatics, ICT, and Big Data Platform, which offers spatial solutions for integrated agro-ecosystems and contributes to the recently launched CGIAR Big Data Platform.

We also used geoinformatics technology to conduct in-depth analyses of land degradation, opportunities for intensification, and crop yield estimates – from field level to regional scale – to enhance agricultural planning.


Analyzing rangeland degradation and restoration

The Rangeland Hydrology and Erosion Modeling (RHEM) tool is web-built and designed to model and predict runoff and erosion rates in rangeland areas. This advanced tool, which takes into account land characteristics and produces scenarios, risk analyses, and case studies, was made widely available to national partners through ICARDA's Capacity Development Unit.

In Tunisia, ICARDA scientists also utilized Geoinformatics Options and Context (GeOC) – an online geographic information system (GIS) that continuously monitors impacts in target areas through the application of remote sensing. Based on an 'option by context' approach the tool offers support to private and public stakeholders, answering common questions on sustainable land use and its management at different scales.

Assessing gaps through satellite earth observations

In Central Asia, ICARDA scientists developed a methodology that uses sophisticated satellite earth observations to map cropping system dynamics and estimate crop yields at the field level, helping to better understand the response of agricultural productivity to crop rotation, irrigation and drainage infrastructure, and environmental factors. Results showed that cropping patterns – the presence or absence of multi-annual crop rotations and the spatial diversity of crops – had the most persistent effects on crop yields, suggesting the need for diversified cropping systems. Remotely sensed estimates of crop production in combination with geospatial technologies provided a unique perspective that, when combined with field surveys, helped planners to identify management priorities and reduce adverse environmental impacts.

Development of decadal dynamics of land use in Jordan

The availability of national land cover databases plays a fundamental role in understanding environmental and socioecological issues under changing demographics and climatic conditions. In 2017, ICARDA used time series satellite data over three decades from 1980 to 2015 to map decadal dynamics of land use and land cover changes in Jordan at a 30 m spatial resolution. The resulting database – the Jordan National Land Cover Database (JNLCD) – encompasses four wall-to-wall land cover maps. It demonstrates remarkable land use changes across rainfed agricultural land, urban environments, and open rangelands, and indicates progressive land degradation, decreases in productivity, and the loss of pristine and ecologically important landscapes. The JNLCD will inform the development of more effective monitoring and management regimes, and offer a baseline for the advancement of landscape-based agricultural research for development in Jordan and the wider region.