The 2003 active fire observations from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), on board NASA's Terra and Aqua satellites, were analyzed to assess burning activity in the cropland areas of the Mississippi River Valley region. Agricultural burning was found to be an important contributor to fire activity in this region, accounting for approximately one-third of all burning. Agricultural fire activity showed two seasonal peaks: the first, smaller peak, occurring in June during the spring harvesting of wheat; and the second, bigger peak, in October during the fall harvesting of rice and soy. The seasonal signal in agricultural burning was predominantly evident in the early afternoon MODIS Aqua fire detections. A strong diurnal agricultural fire signal was prevalent during the fall harvesting months, as suggested by the substantially higher number (approximately 3.5 times) of fires detected by MODIS Aqua in the early afternoon, compared with those detected by MODIS Terra in the morning. No diurnal variations in agricultural fire activity were apparent during the springtime wheat-harvesting season. The seasonal and diurnal patterns in agricultural fire activity detected by MODIS are supported by known crop management practices in this region. MODIS data provide an important means to characterize and monitor agricultural fire dynamics and management practices.