Monitoring Crop Phenology and Growth Stages from Space: Opportunities and Challenges

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 4:15 PM
Feng Gao, Agricultural Research Service Beltsville, Beltsville, MD, United States, Martha C. Anderson, USDA ARS, Pendleton, OR, United States, Iliana E Mladenova, USDA/ARS BARC-W, Bldg 007, Beltsville, MD, United States, William P Kustas, USDA ARS HRSL, Beltsvillle, MD, United States and Joseph G Alfieri, Organization Not Listed, Washington, DC, United States
Crop growth stages in concert with weather and soil moisture conditions can have a significant impact on crop yields. In the U.S., crop growth stages and conditions are reported by farmers at the county level. These reports are somewhat subjective and fluctuate between different reporters, locations and times. Remote sensing data provide an alternative approach to monitoring crop growth over large areas in a more consistent and quantitative way. In the recent years, remote sensing data have been used to detect vegetation phenology at 1-km spatial resolution globally. However, agricultural applications at field scale require finer spatial resolution remote sensing data. Landsat (30-m) data have been successfully used for agricultural applications. There are many medium resolution sensors available today or in near future. These include Landsat, SPOT, RapidEye, ASTER and future Sentinel-2 etc. Approaches have been developed in the past several years to integrate remote sensing data from different sensors which may have different sensor characteristics, and spatial and temporal resolutions. This allows us opportunities today to map crop growth stages and conditions using dense time-series remote sensing at field scales.

However, remotely sensed phenology (or phenological metrics) is normally derived based on the mathematical functions of the time-series data. The phenological metrics are determined by either identifying inflection (curvature) points or some pre-defined thresholds in the remote sensing phenology algorithms. Furthermore, physiological crop growth stages may not be directly correlated to the remotely sensed phenology. The relationship between remotely sensed phenology and crop growth stages is likely to vary for specific crop types and varieties, growing stages, conditions and even locations. In this presentation, we will examine the relationship between remotely sensed phenology and crop growth stages using in-situ measurements from Fluxnet sites and crop progress reports from USDA NASS. We will present remote sensing approaches and focus on: 1) integrating multiple sources of remote sensing data; and 2) extracting crop phenology at field scales. An example in the U.S. Corn Belt area will be presented and analyzed. Future directions for mapping crop growth stages will be discussed.