UCL Department of Geography


Monitoring crop productivity in Northern China

9 September 2019

UCL Geography collaboration shortlisted for Newton Prize

Monitoring crop productivity in Northern China

Professor Philip Lewis, with Professor Zhongxin Chen (Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences: CAAS), has been shortlisted for the Newton Prize 2019.

The Prize celebrates the best partnerships between the UK and Newton countries (China, Indonesia and the Philippines) and is intended to enable international research partners to continue working together on some of the world’s key challenges related to human health, food security and climate change.

The UCL Geography/CAAS project, Regional crop monitoring and assessment with quantitative remote sensing and data assimilation exploits the expansion of "big data" analysis and the development of so-called "data assimilation" statistical methodologies through which otherwise incompatible datasets can be combined into hybrid datasets.

The project is producing estimates of Chinese agricultural productivity applied to multiple sources of crop data, including survey-based growth models and satellite imagery. It is also among the first such study drawing on data from the latest Sentinel and the Chinese GF satellites.

Monitoring agricultural productivity is essential to China’s food security and the development of poor rural regions. This is especially the case in the North China Plain, the country’s historical breadbasket, now facing a combination of very high population densities, low household incomes and ecological stresses.

The research is producing the most accurate portrait so far of changing agricultural production in northern China. The analysis can also be applied predictively, in combination with modelled scenarios of future climate change, to assess the geographies of agricultural stress likely to be created.

The project’s delivery partners are the UK Science & Technology Facilities Council and the National Natural Science Foundation of China.

Twenty projects have been shortlisted, and the £1 million prize will be divided between the four winning projects.


Explanatory video

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