Rootable depth and soil hydraulic properties derived from SoilGrids to inform crop yield forecasting in Pan-Europe (MARSOP4)

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Crop yield forecasts and crop production estimates are necessary to provide timely information for rapid decision-making during the growing season. Estimates of crop production are also useful in relation to trade, development policies and humanitarian assistance linked to food security. For this purpose the Monitoring of Agricultural Resources (MARS) mission unit of the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission provides near real-time crop growth monitoring and yield forecasting information for the EU and its neighbourhood, and is extending these activities to the main producing regions of the world. It also assesses climate change impacts on agriculture through the simulation of impacts of climate change scenarios in crop models. (EC-JRC).

MARSOP is an operational project and has been led by Wageningen Environmental Research (WEnR; formerly Alterra) of Wageningen UR since the inception in 1988. Meteorological data and forecasts, collected daily, are combined with historical yield data and growth models, for various crops and soil types, to provide regional and national authorities with reliable and independent information about the anticipated yields of the main crops in Europe and worldwide. (WEnR).

All data and information is processed and managed through the Crop Growth Monitoring System (CGMS) database including the soil information required to calculate the impact of weather on crop growth. This soil information consists of soil hydraulic properties and rootable depth and is currently derived from a compilation of national soil type maps.

WEnR invited ISRIC - World Soil Information to participate in a project to update the soil schema (data model) in the CGMS database. The soil schema will be updated to that of SoilGrids which is a coherent collection of gridded maps that provide estimated soil property values at 6 depth intervals and a spatial resolution of 250 m covering the world.


To deliver SoilGrids derived maps of soil hydraulic properties and the rootable depth for pan-Europe (including Turkey, Maghreb and West Russia). 


The soil hydraulic properties are derived from the SoilGrids data using pedotransfer functions (PTF) and include 1) the volumetric moisture content at saturation, 2) at field capacity and 3) at wilting point and 4) the hydraulic conductivity at saturation. An expert meeting was held in March at JRC in Ispra with experts from Wageningen and JRC to discuss about which PTFs to apply and it was decided to apply an ensemble of PTFs which were developed, based on the EU-HYDI database, by Toth et al., 2015. 

The soil rootable depth is derived from SoilGrids in line with the pedotransfer rules (PTR) as developed and applied in the framework of a collaboration between the Global Yield Gap Atlas (GYGA) and the Africa Soil Information Service (AfSIS) projects for sub-Saharan Africa (Leenaars et al., 2018). Where possible, the parameterisation of these rules was improved. For those soil properties which were available from the Africa SoilGrids but unavailable from the SoilGrids for Europe, data from the WISE30sec database were used.

The algorithms were implemented while the data handling scripts had to be optimised to enable the production of the final maps at 250 m resolution consisting of near 20 billion voxels (minimally 20 GB for each property).



Access to the maps and the corresponding report wil be provided upon permission of WEnR.  

SoilGrids derived maps for pan-Europe at 250m resolution of:

  1.  the volumetric moisture content at saturation (at 1 cm) for 6 depth intervals,
  2.  the volumetric moisture content at field capacity (at 100 cm) for 6 depth intervals, 
  3.  the volumetric moisture content at wilting point (at 15,500 cm) for 6 depth intervals, 
  4.  the hydraulic conductivity at saturation for 6 depth intervals,
  5.  the soil rootable depth
  6.  the soil rootable depth restricting soil quality.

Report: Leenaars et al., 2018. Technical report on deriving rootable depth, and soil hydraulic properties, from the pan-European extent of SoilGrids250m as input for soil water models in the MCYFS.


ISRIC - World Soil Information working in close collaboration with the Earth Observation and Environmental Informatics division of Wageningen Environmental Research (WEnR) of Wageningen UR and the Monitoring of Agricultural Resources (MARS) mission unit of the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission  (EC).


ISRIC is contracted by WEnR in the context of a framework service contract between WEnR and EC-JRC in support to MARSOP4. 

Reference: Leenaars J.G.B., H.L. Boogaard, R. van der Wijngaart, U. Turdukulov, M. Ruiperez Gonzalez, B. Kempen, R. Lecerf, S. Niemeyer, 2018. Technical report on deriving rootable depth, and soil hydraulic properties, from the pan-European extent of SoilGrids250m as input for soil water models in the MCYFS. “LOT 2: Agro-meteorological models”, Specific Contract 7, Framework service contract (390604) supporting the MARS crop yield forecasting systems MARSOP 4. Joint Research Centre (JRC), Wageningen Environmental Research (WEnR), ISRIC – World Soil Information, Wageningen.



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