Monitoring cropping patterns using sequential Landsat imagery: An adaptive threshold approach and its application in Phoenix, AZ

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Chao Fan, Baojuan Zheng, Soe Win Myint and Rimjhim Aggarwal, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, United States
Cropping intensity is the number of crops grown per year per unit area of cropland. Since 1970s, the Phoenix Active Management Area (AMA) has undergone rapid urbanization mostly via land conversions from agricultural prime lands to urban land use. Agricultural intensification, or multiple cropping, has been observed globally as a positive response to the growing land pressure as a consequence of urbanization and exploding population. Nevertheless, increased cropping intensity has associated local, regional, and global environmental outcomes such as degradation of water quality and soil fertility. Quantifying spatio-temporal patterns of cropping intensity can serve as a first step towards understanding these environmental problems and developing effective and sustainable cropping strategies. In this study, an adaptive threshold method was developed to measure the cropping intensity in the Phoenix AMA from 1995 to 2010 at five-year intervals. The method has several advantages in terms of (1) minimization of errors arising from missing data and noise; (2) ability to distinguish growing cycles from multiple small false peaks in a vegetation index time series; (3) flexibility when dealing with temporal profiles with diffing numbers of observations. The adaptive threshold approach measures the cropping intensity effectively with overall accuracies higher than 97%. Results indicate a dramatic decline in the area of total croplands, single crops, and double crops. A small land conversion was witnessed from single crops into double crops from 1995 to 2000, whereas a reverse trend was observed from 2005 to 2010. Changes in cropping intensity can affect local water consumption. Therefore, joint investigation of cropping patterns and agricultural water use can provide implications for future water demand, which is an increasingly critical issue in this rapidly expanding desert city.