Integrating cloud-based workflows in continental-scale cropland extent classification

Richard Massey, Temuulen T. Sankey, Kamini Yadav, Russell G. Congalton, James C. Tilton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Accurate information on cropland spatial distribution is required for global-scale assessments and agricultural land use policies. Cloud computing platforms such as Google Earth Engine (GEE) provide unprecedented opportunities for large-scale classifications of Landsat data. We developed a novel method to fuse pixel-based random forest classification of continental-scale Landsat data on GEE and an object-based segmentation approach known as recursive hierarchical segmentation (RHSeg). Using our fusion method, we produced a continental-scale cropland extent map for North America at 30 m spatial resolution for the nominal year 2010. The total cropland area for North America was estimated at 275.18 million hectares (Mha). The overall accuracies of the map are >90% across the continent. This map also compares well with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) cropland data layer (CDL), Agriculture and Agri-food Canada (AAFC) annual crop inventory (ACI), and the Mexican government agency Servicio de Información Agroalimentaria y Pesquera (SIAP)'s agricultural boundaries. Furthermore, our map compared well with sub-country statistics including state-wise and county-wise cropland statistics in regression models resulting in R2 > 0.84. This key contribution paves the way for more detailed products such as crop intensity, crop type, and crop irrigation, and provides a method for creating high-resolution cropland extent maps for other countries where spatial information about croplands are not as prevalent.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)162-179
Number of pages18
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
StatePublished - Dec 15 2018


  • Cluster computing
  • Google Earth Engine
  • Landsat
  • North American croplands
  • Object-based analysis
  • RHSeg
  • Random Forest

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science
  • Geology
  • Computers in Earth Sciences


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