Early Season Monitoring of Corn and Soybeans with TerraSAR-X and RADARSAT-2.

McNairn, H., Kross, A., Lapen, D.R., Caves, R., and Shang, J. (2014). "Early Season Monitoring of Corn and Soybeans with TerraSAR-X and RADARSAT-2.", International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation, 28(1), pp. 252-259. doi : 10.1016/j.jag.2013.12.015  Access to full text


Early and on-going crop production forecasts are important to facilitate food price stability for regions at risk, and for agriculture exporters, to set market value. Most regional and global efforts in forecasting rely on multiple sources of information from the field. With increased access to data from spaceborne Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), these sensors could contribute information on crop acreage. But these acreage estimates must be available early in the season to assist with production forecasts. This study acquired TerraSAR-X and RADARSAT-2 data over a region in eastern Canada dominated by economically important corn and soybean production. Using a supervised decision tree classifier, results determined that either sensor was capable of delivering highly accurate maps of corn and soybeans at the end of the growing season. Accuracies far exceeded 90%. Spatial and multi-temporal filtering approaches were compared and small improvements in accuracies were found by applying the multi-temporal filter to the RADARSAT-2 data. Of significant interest, this study determined that by using only three TerraSAR-X images corn could be accurately identified by the end of June, a mere six weeks after planting and at a vegetative growth stage (V6 – sixth leaf collar developed). However, soybeans required additional acquisitions given the variance in planting densities and planting dates in this region of Canada. In this case, accurate soybean classification required TerraSAR-X images until early August at the start of the reproductive stage (R5 – seed development is beginning). Also important, by applying a multi-temporal filter accurate mapping (close to 90%) of corn and soybeans from RADARSAT-2 could occur five weeks earlier (by August 19) than if a spatial filter was used. Thus application of this filtering approach could accelerate delivery of a crop inventory for this region of Canada. Corn and soybeans are important commodities both globally and within Canada. This study makes an important contribution as it demonstrates that TerraSAR-X can deliver acreage estimates of these two crops early enough to assist with in-season production forecasting.

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