CEH Land Cover plus: Crops 2015

CEH Land Cover® plus: Crops is the first detailed, and interactive, map of UK cropping. Two million land parcels are categorised within the UK Land Cover Map (LCM) and provide users with information on annual crop types.

CEH Land Cover® plus: Crops sample - zoom, pan and click on individual fields
Crop Map 2015 Legend
Detail from Crops 2015 (note: white areas are non-agricultural).
Land Cover plus: Crops © NERC (CEH) 2016;
© Remote Sensing Applications Consultants Ltd 2016. © Crown Copyright 2007 OS 100017572.

Developed in collaboration with Remote Sensing Applications Consultants Ltd (RSAC), the map exploits satellite data - Copernicus Sentinel-1 C-band SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) and Sentinel-2 optical to generate the maps. The first output of this collaboration is Crops 2015, which maps the main arable crops and improved grassland. A time series of Sentinel-1 data has been used, with more than 350 individual images of the UK being processed covering the whole crop growing season.

From 2016 onwards crop mapping will incorporate the use of Sentinel-2 optical data. The map product will improve with methodological developments, additional crop classes and refinement of the land parcel framework. Crop maps will be available each year in October.


    Land Cover plus: Crops 2015 is based on the LCM parcel framework. Every parcel larger than 2ha categorised as arable/horticultural or improved grassland parcels is coded with 2015 crop type information. Where parcels contain two or more crops, preliminary processing has been applied to subdivide parcels into separate cropping units.

    The crop classes in 2015 are winter wheat (including oats), winter barley, spring barley, oilseed rape, field beans, potatoes, sugar beet, maize, and improved grass. Other cereals, peas, early potatoes, early maize, and vegetables are grouped in a class called ‘other’, together with a small number of parcels which could not be classified.

    Mapping accuracy

    The LCM parcel framework is based on 2007 Ordnance Survey Mastermap® data. Subsequent field boundary changes are relatively uncommon and so the effect on overall mapping accuracy is quite limited.

    The 2015 crop classification has been independently validated. Indicative accuracies for the different crops are:

    • Oilseed Rape (97%, or 97 out of every 100 fields correctly mapped),
    • Winter Wheat/Winter Barley/Spring Barley (90%, or 9 out of every 10 fields correctly mapped),
    • Field Beans/Sugar Beet/Potatoes/Maize (80%, or 8 out of every 10 fields correctly mapped),
    • Improved Grass (95%, or 19 out of every 20 fields correctly mapped).

    Click here to read further information on quality assessment results.


    Key applications for Land Cover plus: Crops are:

    • Hydrological Modelling
    • Catchment Sensitive Farming
    • Plant Health and Crop Science
    • Crop Areas and Statistics
    • Control of Crop Subsidies and Levies
    • Agri-Business

    Land Cover plus: Crops was developed in conjunction with Anglian Water. Water companies require detailed agricultural land cover data for improved catchment modelling in the context of drinking water quality. Anglian Water’s assessment of LC+ products concluded that they have the potential to allow more accurate modelling of pesticide sources and transport pathways within catchments. Land Cover plus “has the potential to enhance the current Drinking Water Safety Planning approach for diffuse agricultural sources of contamination in terms of hazard identification, risk assessment and risk management.”

    Annual mapping of agricultural cropping over the whole country has a wide range of potential applications, including the medium and long term detailed analysis of crop rotations and changing cropping patterns. Up-to-date crop maps are a vital resource for stakeholders who have an obligation to safeguard our environment. Agriculture impacts directly on biogeochemical and water cycles, nutrient balances and hydrological and biological systems. Through a better understanding of crop distribution, crop rotations and their downstream consequences, changes in practice might be devised and implemented to bring about reduced pollution, wildlife conservation and improved control over the spread of crop diseases. Knowledge of crop distribution will also provide policy makers and regulatory agencies with better evidence to inform planning and decision making in areas as diverse as rural development, biofuels and food security.

    CEH Land Cover® plus: Crops is an important new source of information for Agri-business, providing advisors and suppliers with intelligence on the precise location of crops grown and in coming years with field-based information on crop rotations.  

    Product details

    CEH Land Cover® plus: Crops is vector data, where each polygon represents a field or cropping parcel and is attributed with the crop class.

    • Scale: Minimum mapping unit is 2ha.
    • Supply Format: ESRI® Shapefile format
    • Coverage: UK

    As well as complete country coverage, customised products for specific areas and/or crop types are also available. 

    Product availability

    Maps of Scotland and Wales were released in July 2016, following extensive quality checking.

    Maps for areas of England will be produced on request.

    An Oilseed Rape Map showing all the fields with OSR in Great Britain (better than 98% classification accuracy) was released in August 2016. It is the first element to be released from the 2016 version of CEH Land Cover® plus Crops.

    Future annual maps will be available in October each year (ie Crops 2016 will be available in October 2016).

    Obtaining a licence for CEH Land Cover® plus: Crops

    CEH Land Cover® plus: Crops is available under licence for internal business use, for academic research and for use in innovation and value added reselling.

    To request a licence, please contact the CEH Data Licensing team.

    Further Information


    Science areas: