Crop map gives insights into rural land use

Satellite imagery has captured crops in every field farmed in Scotland to create a new interactive map that breaks down agricultural land use.

Crop fields
Crop fields. Credit: Getty Images, fotoVoyager

The Scottish Crop Map uses data recorded from 2019 to predict crop types, using radar images from the European Space Agency (ESA) Copernicus Satellite Programme.

ESA’s satellite images will also be used to recognise the variety of crops growing in nearly 400,000 fields in Scotland.


The map has been developed by the Scottish Government’s Rural & Environmental Science and Analytical Services (RESAS), working in collaboration with the University’s expert digital and data planning unit EDINA and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC).

Using  its  knowledge and expertise in geospatial data, EDINA built a  process to record  the satellite data, which was compared to data collected on the ground.

Scottish Government scientists then built a machine learning model  to enable crop types to be identified from the satellite data, producing the Scottish Crop Map.

As the project developed, EDINA assisted the Scottish Government with modifying and updating how the data was processed.

RESAS has now made the Scottish Crop Map available through an online portal to gain feedback from farmers and contribute to its development.


Experts say that while the methods and techniques in producing the map are still under review, statistics from it should be used with caution.

However, analysis of the results predict that it is identifing crops with an accuracy of 85 per cent for barley and more than 90 per cent for wheat.


 As a first version of the model, the interactive map and accompanying documentation will be released under the Scottish Government’s ‘Experimental Statistics’ banner to allow further collaborations and consultation with agricultural and academic experts to refine it.

EDINA has been working with the agricultural sector for many years, and we were pleased to collaborate on this important project with the Scottish Government and JNCC. As well as providing satellite data expertise to develop the project, EDINA is also a champion of ensuring data is understood by wider audiences. Developing the spatial presentation of the data, to provide maximum benefit to the farming community, was an important element of the project.

 Gavin McLachlanVice Principal and Chief Information Officer, University of Edinburgh


This map is a very exciting development and, along with other digital innovations, will provide greater insight into rural land use. Future iterations of the map, combined with other datasets, could have a significantly broader scope of use, providing real time data that would help with community and farm level land-use planning and management.  

"The statistics we have on Scotland’s agricultural sector typically rely on surveys being completed by a large number of farmers. Gathering data in this way would reduce the amount of time our farmers and crofters have to spend reporting this.  

"In order to help improve the accuracy of the map, and before further developments are made to track minor crops, farmers and crofters are being asked to review the current map and report any inaccuracies in the crop identified. Engagement with farmers and crofters with their local knowledge is vital and will help develop future iterations of the map and enable us to extend and enhance what the map could do.

Mairi GougeonRural Affairs Secretary

Related links

Scottish Crop Map 2019 

Interactive map