Stimulating Innovation for
Global Monitoring of Agriculture

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SIGMA undertakes activities at global, regional and local scale, the main challenge being to thoroughly understand the dynamics, interactions and validity of the developed methods at the various scales. Global and regional data sets (based on low resolution data and models) are used to analyze crop land change and some well-known land degradation issues. This global approach is then ‘verified’ at regional level and number of sites at specific locations, providing insight into the validity of such global and regional approaches. Confronting information at the various scales will generates a methodological dynamic whereby, as a result, significant improvements can be expected.




SIGMA starts from the JECAM (Joint Experiment for Crop Assessment and Monitoring) sites as defined by the GEOGLAM community (see also
These sites are:

  1. China (IRSA);
  2. France / Belgium (VITO/UCL);
  3. Argentina (INTA);
  4. Ukraine (SRI);
  5. Russia (IKI).

A number of additional study sites will be considered by SIGMA, these are in particular: Vietnam, Burkina Faso, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Madagascar and additional sites in Brazil.


Site Agricultural system Environmental issues
Belgium/France Dominant crop types are wheat, barley, potatoes, sugar beet, maize, alfalfa. Typical field size 3-15 Ha. Diffuse nitrate pollutions, impacts of agricultural inputs (eg. Phytosanitary), soil degradation and maintaining biodiversity.
Spain - Albacete The region consists of approximately 2/3 of dry land and 1/3 of irrigated land. The land cover is dominated by large, uniform stands of alfalfa, corn, sugar beet, onions, garlic and potatoes. Main environmental problems are to pollution and soil erosion.
Ukraine (Kyiv area) Typical field size of 30-100 Ha. Main crops include winter wheat, spring barley, maize, soy bean, winter rapeseed, sunflower, sugar beet, potatoes, winter rye and spring wheat. Impact of crop rotation violations on soil productivity, impact of abandoned agricultural land on deforestation.
Russia (SRIA, Stavropol Krai) Rainfed, single crop system with dominating cereal winter and summer crops. Soil erosion and desertification. Impact of crop rotation violations on soil productivity, impact of abandoned agricultural land on deforestation.
Burkina Faso (Koumbia) Family farming system, with cotton (53%), maize (36%) and cattle. High variability of climate and yield; Reduction of the fallow lands; Pest development, introduction of new varieties (including GMO cotton), Rangeland degradation, crop extension, and Carbon sequestration.
Madagascar (Antsirabé) Mid-altitude mixed rice cropping system; irrigated on terraces or basins, and rainfed on the hills. Typical field size 0.03 Ha. Agricultural expansion on hill, soil erosion.
Ethiopia West Shewa Rainfed small holders farming. Around 60%, of agricultural land is occupied by short-cycle cereals (teff, wheat and barley), long-cycle cereals (maize and sorghum) amount to 20%, while pulses and oilseeds each cover another 10%. Main environmental impacts are, land degradation and soil erosion.
Tanzania (Rungwe) Major coffee producing area located in the volcanic highlands of East Africa. Agro-forestry system based on coffee, banana and corn. Water and soil erosion, deforestation, maintain biodiversity.
China (Heilongjiang) Typical field size of 5-20 Ha, single cropping season. Crop types are soybean, corn and wheat. The intensive cropping practices have led to water and soil contamination.
China (Taishan) Typical field size of 0.2-0.5 Ha, double cropping season. Crop types are rice and vegetables. Fast developing economy is threatening the rice fields. The agricultural area is shrinking fast, Paddy field are converted into urban or industrial area.
China (Shangdong) Typical field size (0.2-0.8 Ha), Crop rotation winter wheat and corn. Crop types are winter wheat, corn, cotton, vegetables. Cropping pattern is changing from previous major crops to cash crops, which needs more fertilizer and pesticides, on top of this, cash crops are planted all year around with green houses. The green house's impact to environment is quite significant, but the scale not well known.
Vietnam (Mekong delta) Irrigated and rainfed paddy rice (high yielding varieties), multiple crops per year, fruits. Coastal erosion, soil acidity and saline intrusion, absence of freshwater during the dry season, pest development.
North America
Fresno (USA) Large, uniform stands of alfalfa, corn, sugar beet, onions, garlic and potatoes run under an irrigated scheme.
Extensive irrigation developments growing almonds, grapes, alfalfa, grassland herbaceous, cotton, winter wheat and tomatoes.
Soil erosion and degradation, biodiversity conservation.
Pollution of water resources (rivers, streams and groundwater).
South America
Argentina (San Antonio de Areco) Main grain crops are soybean, maize and wheat. Rotation systems of three years, mostly no till systems and rainfed fields. Typical field sizes 20 Ha. Agricultural expansion and deforestation, soybean monoculture, soil degradation and erosion.
Brazil (São Paulo) Main land use is eucalyptus tree plantations (typical field size of 50 Ha), planted for pulp, paper and charcoal production. Other land uses are sugar cane, pastures, and citrus orchards. Land competition in a context of high land pressure, high water consumption.
Brazil (Para) Soybean cultivation, maize and rice. Extensive and intensive agricultural practices on the same site. Agricultural expansion, landscape fragmentation, intensive agricultural practices.