MARS-OP predicts worldwide crop yields

The public-private partnership (PPP) Monitoring Agricultural ResourceS – Operational (MARS-OP) has been commissioned by the EC Joint Research Centre to predict crop yields worldwide.

MARS-OP bases its predictions on worldwide meteorological data which are collected every day and on various instruments including crop growth models, visualisation tools and statistical procedures. When the MARS-OP project first started in 1988 the aim was to map out crops and yields in Europe. Since then, its activities and working domain have been increasingly extended. Accordingly, the importance of the project has been recognised at the European level. MARS-OP is an operational project. Alterra, part of Wageningen University & Research, has been project leader since the inception.

Collecting and integrating data

Every day MARS-OP collects meteorological data from more than 2,000 weather stations in Europe, and weather forecast models worldwide. These data are verified and processed in an agro-climatic database and in viewers. They are then combined with growth models for various crops and soil type to calculate the impact of weather on growth. Finally, the outcomes of the crop growth models are combined with historical yield data to produce statistical predictions of yields at regional and national level. MARS-OP provides European and national authorities with reliable and independent information about the anticipated yields of the main crops in Europe and worldwide, namely grain, oil seeds, sugar beet, potatoes, rice and grasslands. The current MARS-OP-project, MARS-OP 3, runs from 2008 to 2013.

Other applications

The data that are collected and generated by MARS-OP can be used for a whole range of purposes besides crop yield predictions. For example, they can send out early warnings of pending famine in Africa and other vulnerable parts of the world. The datasets and instruments can be used for studies on climate adaptation and potential yield ceilings for crops.

The MARS-OP PPP is also leading to new collaborations: Wageningen Environmental Research and Meteo Consult intend to co-develop a commercial product for predicting crop yields.