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GEOGLAM Workshop on Essential Agricultural Variables, October 2019

EAV Meeting Group

The First GEOGLAM Essential Agricultural Variables (EAV) Workshop was held in Louvain-La-Neuve, Belgium on October 23-24, 2019, hosted by the Catholic University of Louvain (Pierre Defourny et al.). This new activity of GEOGLAM falls under the initiative’s Earth Observation Data Coordination Thematic Team - which is led by Harvest Deputy Director & Manager Dr. Alyssa Whitcraft


Over the course of the two-day meeting, headed by co-leads of the Essential Agricultural Variable for GEOGLAM Working Group, Dr. Whitcraft and Sven Gilliams (VITO), experts in the fields of remote sensing and Earth observations for agriculture gathered to clearly define the scope, purpose, and variables themselves, as well as a roadmap for their implementation with national and global policy audiences.


Why Essential Agricultural Variables for GEOGLAM? 

There is a lot of distance covered between satellite data acquisition and decision making for policy. With respect to information about state, change, and forecast agricultural land use and productivity, GEOGLAM must provide a bridge to connect Earth observations to impact. Defining high-value EO-based products which are applicable across multiple decisions and policy spheres both demystifies the value of EO for policymakers and provides clear evidence to the world’s space agencies of the traceability of their observations into decisions and policy. 


What are “EAVs for GEOGLAM”?

  • Essential: key ‘building blocks’ to produce relevant and timely information products
  • Agriculture: related to agricultural production and land use
  • Variables: they can be measured and reflect state, change, and forecast
    • using satellite Earth observations
    • they support GEOGLAM policy mandates, and therefore principally deal with G20 but also UN SDGs, Paris Accords (Climate Change), Sendai (Disaster Risk Reduction)


Who are the audiences for EAVs for GEOGLAM?

The EAVs themselves - as geospatial products - are broadly useful to all actors interested in monitoring agriculture in the present and understanding its change over time.

At the same time, the definition, specifications, and gap analysis related to the production of the EAVs are broadly useful across several audiences: 

  1. Space Agencies & CEOS: EAVs taken together with the GEOGLAM EO Data Requirements Table clearly show the purpose of and need for satellite observations of agricultural land. It articulates not just what is currently available or currently feasible, but what we know as a community to be clear priorities of our usership.
  2. Funding Agencies: Funding agencies can utilize the gap assessment (an ancillary product of the EAV specification process) to develop solicitations.
  3. Policy Audiences: To quickly understand the ways in which existing EO-methods or EO-products themselves can be integrated into policy frameworks for monitoring, verifying, or reporting with respect to agricultural land use and productivity.
  4. Organizations seeking to understand where EO fits in a decision support system: This will help them understand what is feasible with EO with respect to agricultural monitoring.

With respect to that final point, the working group posits that GEOGLAM needs to clearly articulate a “Data-Decisions Cycle Framework” for these EAVs and how they can be implemented within a decision support system.


EAV diagram

GEOGLAM Data-Decisions Cycle Framework:  Read from bottom to top, GEOGLAM’s work builds from large volumes of data to concise, actionable, sustained decisions, which identifies the relevant audiences and actors as related to GEOGLAM (left) engaged in each step of the cycle. This clearly shows the two-way connections between observations – variables – indicators – decisions.  EAVs for GEOGLAM, therefore are derived from satellite-based Earth observations and together or independently provide insight about state, change, and forecasting in agricultural land use and productivity, upon which GEOGLAM’s own end users can conduct analyses as further input into policies.


Next Steps

During the meeting, the group debated on the list of variables to include. What is essential, and what is merely useful? After much debate, the set included 11 Core EAVs and 23 Supporting EVs, with 7 High priority Core EAVs:

  • Utilized agricultural areas mask
  • Annual Crop Mask
  • Crop type map
  • Crop type area estimate
  • Crop Yield estimation
  • Crop yield forecast
  • Crop condition assessment

All 34 variables were assigned a “steward” recognized as a leader in that variable’s research and/or use, who will be responsible for drawing community inputs in defining and specifying variable characteristics. A draft of the completed specifications of EAVs is targeted to be ready by early March 2020, with the final versions as well as associated documentation ready by November 2020.


If you have interest in contributing to the EAV for GEOGLAM specifications, please contact us.


To learn more and read the full report, view “EAV WG Meeting Report” in the “Related Documents” section of this page.


News Date
Dec 19, 2019