Water productivity mapping using remote sensing data of various resolutions to support "more crop per drop"

Xueliang Cai, Prasad S. Thenkabail, Chandrashekhar M. Biradar, Alexander Platonov, Murali Gumma, Venkateswarlu Dheeravath, Yafit Cohen, Naftali Goldlshleger, Eyal Ben Dor, Victor Alchanatis, Jagath Vithanage, Anputhas Markandu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The overarching goal of this research was to map crop water productivity using satellite sensor data at various spectral, spatial, radiometric, and temporal resolutions involving: (a) Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) 500m, (b) MODIS 250m, (c) Landsat enhanced thematic mapper plus (ETM+) 60m thermal, (d) Indian Remote Sensing Satellite (IRS) 23.5 m, and (e) Quickbird 2.44 m data. The spectro-biophysical models were developed using IRS and Quickbird satellite data for wet biomass, dry biomass, leaf area index, and grain yield for 5 crops: (a) cotton, (b) maize, (c) winter wheat, (d) rice, and (e) alfalfa in the Sry Darya basin, Central Asia. Crop-specific productivity maps were developed by applying the best spectro-biophysical models for the respective delineated crop types. Water use maps were produced using simplified surface energy balance (SSEB) model by multiplying evaporative fraction derived from Landsat ETM+ thermal data by potential ET. The water productivity (WP) maps were then derived by dividing the crop productivity maps by water use maps. The results of cotton crop, an overwhelmingly predominant crop in Central Asian Study area, showed that about 55% area had low WP of < 0.3 kg/m3, 34% had moderate WP of 0.3-0.4 kg/m3, and only 11% area had high WP > 0.4 kg/m3. The trends were similar for other crops. These results indicated that there is highly significant scope to increase WP (to grow "more crop per drop") through better water and cropland management practices in the low WP areas, which will substantially enhance food security of the ballooning populations without having to increase: (a) cropland areas, and\or (b) irrigation water allocations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number033557
JournalJournal of Applied Remote Sensing
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2009


  • Crop water productivity
  • IRS
  • Quickbird.
  • remote sensing
  • simplified surface energy balance model
  • spectro-biophysical models


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