Three years of RPA Crop Map of England (CME) data can now be viewed alongside a range of other metrics – such as historic weather, cultivation methods, and soil composition – within Agrimetrics Field Explorer. The CME uses Earth Observation data to classify England's fields into over 28 main crop types, plus grasslands, woodlands and waterbodies, without having to rely on farmers self-reporting.
Funded by the Rural Payment Agency (RPA), the original goals of the CME were to inform the Common Agricultural Policy's (CAP) Basic Payment Scheme. This included the streamlining of processes, e.g. land change detection and the automated monitoring of greening requirements.
However, the applications of the CME go well beyond CAP. Natural England, for example, are using the data to help protect vulnerable species of birds. By understanding the proximity of water, woodlands, and crops (which make up the bulk of many birds' diets), threatened populations can be strategically located. Once located, they can be better protected, and their habitats more effectively monitored.
The British Environment Agency are making use of this data too. Surface run-off is a major problem – reducing the efficacy of herbicides and polluting watercourses (a problem Agrimetrics is helping to solve
). This is more common on land which is kept bare for long periods of time. By identifying bare land parcels, water quality inspections can be targeted more effectively. This has net benefits for everyone.
Moving forward, multi-year data can prove a valuable resource for understanding commodity markets and forecasting fluctuations in supply chains; researchers analysing crop disease and rotations will benefit too. This can help improve decision making at all levels – from policy makers to land managers.