Wang, HF; Ghosh, A; Linquist, BA; Hijmans, RJ (2020). Satellite-Based Observations Reveal Effects of Weather Variation on Rice Phenology. REMOTE SENSING, 12(9), 1522.

Obtaining detailed data on the spatio-temporal variation in crop phenology is critical to increasing our understanding of agro-ecosystem function, such as their response to weather variation and climate change. It is challenging to collect such data over large areas through field observations. The use of satellite remote sensing data has made phenology data collection easier, although the quality and the utility of such data to understand agro-ecosystem function have not been widely studied. Here, we evaluated satellite data-based estimates of rice phenological stages in California, USA by comparing them with survey data and with predictions by a temperature-driven phenology model. We then used the satellite data-based estimates to quantify the crop phenological response to changes in weather. We used time-series of MODIS satellite data and PhenoRice, a rule-based rice phenology detection algorithm, to determine annual planting, heading and harvest dates of paddy rice in California between 2002 and 2017. At the state level, our satellite-based estimates of rice phenology were very similar to the official survey data, particularly for planting and harvest dates (RMSE = 3.8-4.0 days). Satellite based observations were also similar to predictions by the DD10 temperature-driven phenology model. We analyzed how the timing of these phenological stages varied with concurrent temperature and precipitation over this 16-year time period. We found that planting was earlier in warm springs (-1.4 days degrees C-1 for mean temperature between mid-April and mid-May) and later in wet years (5.3 days 100 mm(-1) for total precipitation from March to April). Higher mean temperature during the pre-heading period of the growing season advanced heading by 2.9 days degrees C-1 and shortened duration from planting to heading by 1.9 days degrees C-1. The entire growing season was reduced by 3.2 days degrees C-1 because of the increased temperature during the rice season. Our findings confirm that satellite data can be an effective way to estimate variations in rice phenology and can provide critical information that can be used to improve understanding of agricultural responses to weather variation.