TRACKING FARM MANAGEMENT PRACTICES WITH REMOTE SENSING
Earth observation (EO) data is effective in monitoring agricultural cropping activity over large areas. An example of such an application is the GeoTerraImage crop type classification for the South African Crop Estimates Committee (CEC). The satellite based classification of crop types in South Africa provides a large scale, spatial and historical record of agricultural practices in the main crop growing areas. The results from these classifications provides data for the analysis of trends over time, in order to extract valuable information that can aid decision making in the agricultural sector. Crop cultivation practices change over time as farmers adapt to demand, exchange rate and new technology. Through the use of remote sensing, grain crop types have been identified at field level since 2008, providing a historical data set of cropping activity for the three most important grain producing provinces of Mpumalanga, Freestate and North West province in South Africa. This historical information allows the analysis of farm management practices to identify changes and trends in crop rotation and irrigation practices. Analysis of crop type classification over time highlighted practices such as: frequency of cultivation of the same crop on a field, intensified cultivation on centre pivot irrigated fields with double cropping of a winter grain followed by a summer grain in the same year and increasing cultivation of certain types of crops over time such as soyabeans. All these practices can be analysed in a quantitative spatial and temporal manner through the use of the remote sensing based crop type classifications.