WorldCereal: a dynamic open-source system for global-scale, seasonal, and reproducible crop and irrigation mapping

Kristof Van Tricht*, Jeroen Degerickx, Sven Gilliams, Daniele Zanaga, Marjorie Battude, Alex Grosu, Joost Brombacher, Myroslava Lesiv, Juan Carlos Laso Bayas, Santosh Karanam, Steffen Fritz, Inbal Becker-Reshef, Belén Franch, Bertran Mollà-Bononad, Hendrik Boogaard, Arun Kumar Pratihast, Benjamin Koetz, Zoltan Szantoi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The challenge of global food security in the face of population growth, conflict, and climate change requires a comprehensive understanding of cropped areas, irrigation practices, and the distribution of major commodity crops like maize and wheat. However, such understanding should preferably be updated at seasonal intervals for each agricultural system rather than relying on a single annual assessment. Here we present the European Space Agency-funded WorldCereal system, a global, seasonal, and reproducible crop and irrigation mapping system that addresses existing limitations in current global-scale crop and irrigation mapping. WorldCereal generates a range of global products, including temporary crop extent, seasonal maize and cereal maps, seasonal irrigation maps, seasonal active cropland maps, and model confidence layers providing insights into expected product quality. The WorldCereal product suite for the year 2021 presented here serves as a global demonstration of the dynamic open-source WorldCereal system. Validation of the products was done based on best available reference data per product. A global statistical validation for the temporary crop extent product resulted in user’s and producer’s accuracies of 88.5 % and 92.1 %, respectively. For crop type, a verification was performed against a newly collected street view dataset (overall agreement 82.5 %) and a limited number of publicly available in situ datasets (reaching minimum agreement of 80 %). Finally, global irrigated-area estimates were derived from available maps and statistical datasets, revealing the conservative nature of the WorldCereal irrigation product. The WorldCereal system provides a vital tool for policymakers, international organizations, and researchers to better understand global crop and irrigation patterns and to inform decision-making related to food security and sustainable agriculture. Our findings highlight the need for continued community efforts such as additional reference data collection to support further development and to push the boundaries for global agricultural mapping from space. The global products are available at (Van Tricht et al., 2023).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5491-5515
Number of pages25
JournalEarth System Science Data
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 6 Dec 2023


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