CropSow: An integrative remotely sensed crop modeling framework for field-level crop planting date estimation

Yin Liu, Chunyuan Diao, Zijun Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Crop planting timing is critical in regulating environmental conditions of crop growth throughout the season, and is an essential parameter in crop simulation models for estimating dry matter accumulation and yields. Accurate planting date information is key to characterizing crop growing dynamics under varying farming practices and facilitating agricultural adaptation to climate change. To date, the main methods to acquire planting dates include field survey methods, weather-dependent methods, and remote sensing phenological detecting methods. However, it is still challenging to effectively estimate the crop planting dates at field levels due to the lack of appropriate field-level modeling design as well as the dearth of ground planting reference data. In our study, we develop a novel CropSow modeling framework to estimate field-level planting dates by integrating the remote sensing phenological detecting method with the crop growth model. The remote sensing phenological detecting method is devised to retrieve the critical crop phenological metrics of farm fields from remote sensing time series, which are then integrated into the crop growth model for field planting date estimation in consideration of soil-crop-atmosphere continuum. CropSow leverages the rich physiological knowledge embedded in the crop growth model to scalably interpret satellite observations under a variety of environmental and management conditions for field-level planting date retrievals. With corn in Illinois, US as a case study, the developed CropSow outperforms three advanced benchmark models (i.e., the remote sensing accumulative growing degree day method, the weather-dependent method, and the shape model) in crop planting date estimation at the field level, with R square higher than 0.68, root mean square error (RMSE) lower than 10 days, and mean bias error (MBE) around 5 days from 2016 to 2020. It achieves better generalization performance than the benchmark models, as well as stronger adaptability to abnormal weather conditions with more robust performance in estimating the planting dates of farm fields. CropSow holds considerable promise to extrapolate over space and time for estimating the timing of crop planting of individual farm fields at large scales.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)334-355
Number of pages22
JournalISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing
StatePublished - Aug 2023


  • Crop growth model
  • Phenology
  • Planting date
  • Remote sensing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computers in Earth Sciences
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Computer Science Applications


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