Agriculture from 'Landsat Imagery: A Unique Resource'

Science Center Objects

Landsat satellites provide high-quality, multi-spectral imagery of the surface of the Earth. These moderate-resolution, remotely sensed images are not just pictures, but contain many layers of data collected at different points along the visible and invisible light spectrum. 

Monthly actual evapotranspiration (red is low evapotranspiration and blue is high evapotranspiration).

Monthly actual evapotranspiration (red is low and blue is high) from Sept. 2006 to August 2007 for Tadla region, Morocco. Courtesy of Riverside Technology, inc.

Morocco Irrigation Efficiencies Improvements: Riverside Technology, Inc.

Morocco’s irrigation systems and water-allocation methods. Eighty-five percent of the water in Morocco is consumed by irrigated agriculture. Increases in population and drought seasons have made it difficult for Morocco to use reservoirs and irrigation infrastructure. Groundwater has been relied on extensively by irrigators to meet their water demand. The increase in groundwater pumping leads to a rapid decrease of the water tables.

 

 

 

 

 

NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index) maps from Landsat 5 imagery in the Wimmera Region, north-central Victoria,

NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index) maps derived from Landsat 5 imagery in the Wimmera Region, north-central Victoria, Australia. Courtesy of the Victoria Department of Environment and Primary Industries.

 

 

Land Cover Mapping: Australia

Australia’s agricultural industry has evolved significantly within the last decade. Change in agriculture, whether it is an increase in land used for production or the types of crops being produced, has an impact on land-cover soil properties and water availability. Landsat imagery is used in monitoring irrigation areas and dry land agricultural areas to detect changes in agricultural practices over time. Additionally, land cover is also used in benchmarking of water-use efficiency which supports irrigation water management at the catchment level.

 

 

 

Landsat Thematic Mapper image was taken June 2006 of portions of the Uncompahgre and Lower Gunnison Valleys in the Upper Colorad

Landsat Thematic Mapper image was taken June 2006 of portions of the Uncompahgre and Lower Gunnison Valleys in the Upper Colorado River Basin. The image on the left is a composite color image while the right shows 24-hour evapotranspiration developed using an energy balance model (red: low to purple: high evapotranspiration rates). Courtesy of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

 

 

Monitoring Consumptive Water Use for Global Crop Production

Monitoring consumptive water use is an important component of global agricultural monitoring (Curt Reynolds, USDA FAS, written commun. and oral commun., 2014), as a majority of global production relies at least in part on irrigation for crop production (fig. 1). Globally, irrigated agriculture supports production of about half of the world’s food supply (Thenkabail and others, 2010). In the United States (U.S.), agriculture accounts for around 80 percent of consumptive water, reaching upwards of 90 percent in many western states (USDA Economic Research Service, 2014).

 

 

 

 

This is a zone map from satellite imagery such as Landsat.

The Ag Data Mapping Solutions software provided by GK Technologies provides an interface that allows users to manipulate various GIS and GPS data, including the creation of zone maps from satellite imagery such as Landsat. Courtesy of GK Technology.

Zone Mapping with Landsat Imagery

Farmers have long known that not all areas in a field produce the same yield, yet the ability to measure and map this variability is a fairly recent arrival in agronomic management. The practice of measuring and mapping yield limiting variables throughout a field is generally referred to as zone mapping (Zhang and others, 2010). Zone maps are used to identify areas within a field that express a similar composition of one or more factors, including soil properties (structure, organic content, depth, and drainage), nutrient levels, topography (flatland, rolling hills), and historic crop growth and yield. A prerequisite to mapping these factors is the ability to accurately and consistently measure them at a high enough resolution to be able to rectify differences at the sub-field level. Multi-spectral sensors such as the Operational Land Imager (OLI) aboard Landsat 8 and the previous generation Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+) aboard Landsat 7 have proved exceptionally capable in this regard.

 

 

The Global Agricultural Monitoring System is a joint project between USDA and NASA to monitor crop area

The Global Agricultural Monitoring System is a joint project between USDA and NASA to monitor crop area and yield using remote sensing data. Courtesy of U.S. Department of Agriculture, Foreign Agricultural Service.

 

USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service Cropland Data Layer

The Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) handles USDA international activities, including the monitoring and estimation of crop supply and demand across global markets. Estimates for foreign production, supply, and demand are developed primarily through agricultural attachés. Attachés are based in foreign embassies, primarily in countries representing potential markets for U.S. crops (fig. 1). FAS attachés are further assisted by the International Production Assessment Division (IPAD), which collects and analyzes global crop condition and production. IPAD crop production analysts and FAS Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) reports both provide crucial inputs for the monthly World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report.

 

 

 

Cropland NDVI monitoring crop phenology and potential crop yield.

Cropland NDVI monitoring crop phenology and potential crop yield. Diagram courtesy of Curt Reynolds, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Foreign Agricultural Service.

 

USDA Estimation of Crop Production

Remote sensing, including Landsat satellite imagery, plays an important role in developing crop production estimates. In particular, the use of satellite imagery plays an important role in enhancing the accuracy and reliability of global crop production estimates (Vogel and Bange, 1999). Domestically, satellite imagery provides supplemental data to annual ground-based agricultural surveys. In addition to supplementing annual estimates, the ability of satellite imagery to provide near real-time production estimates of major crops is increasing, with significant strides occurring within the last decade. The task of estimating crop production is the responsibility of the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) for domestic (U.S.) production and the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) for all global production (excluding the U.S.).

 

 

 

Seasonal METRIC evapotranspiration along the Snake River, Idaho.

Seasonal METRIC evapotranspiration along the Snake River, Idaho. Junior water rights affected by curtailment are highlighted in yellow. Courtesy of Idaho Department of Water Resources. (ET, evapotranspiration; mm, millimeters)

 

Clear Springs Foods Inc., Idaho: Curtailment Order

In 2009, Snake River Farm, a trout farm owned by Clear Springs Foods, Inc., in Snake River Canyon saw a decrease in surface water from springs and sought curtailment of junior groundwater pumping. In this case, the Director of IDWR found that Clear Springs was materially injured by junior groundwater pumping and ordered curtailment. Landsat imagery processed with METRIC was used to establish water budgets to assess depletions versus recharge. For recharge estimates, both evapotranspiration and surface-water diversion return flows were used. In response to the finding of material injury, groundwater irrigators in the affected area developed a mitigation plan, which was approved by IDWR, and they are no longer subject to curtailment.

 

 

 

A&B Irrigation District. Courtesy of Idaho Department of Water Resources.

A&B Irrigation District. Courtesy of Idaho Department of Water Resources.

 

 

A and B Irrigation District, Idaho: Call on the River

In 2006, A and B Irrigation District (A and B), a senior groundwater user, claimed it was materially injured due to junior groundwater pumping. Landsat data processed with the METRIC model served as key evidence for the case. One way of determining if there was a shortage of water in A&B was to analyze three archived Landsat scenes. Water use was compared through the evapotranspiration measurements conducted in METRIC for groundwater and surface-water users in A and B and the surrounding groundwater users. The mean daily evapotranspiration chart did not show water shortage in the area in dispute.

 

 

False color composite Landsat image and evapotranspiration map

False color composite Landsat image and evapotranspiration map of the Shepparton Irrigation District, Victoria, Australia. Courtesy of the Victoria Department of Environment and Primary Industries.

 

 

Irrigation Improvement for Yield Optimization, Australia

Australia’s Murray-Darling Basin (MDB) produces the highest value and largest volume of irrigated products, including rice, cotton, dairy, horticulture, and viticulture, in Australia. The MDB represents over 60 percent of all irrigated agricultural area in Australia. In the 2010–11 production years, MDB had nearly 3 million acres (1.2 million hectares) of irrigated land. This large agricultural industry is responsible for 95 percent of all diversions of the Basin’s water resources and represents 75 percent of all water used for irrigation in Australia and over half of all water use in Australia.

 

 

 

Evapotranspiration from Gallo vineyards in Lodi, California, measured using an adjusted form of METRIC.

Evapotranspiration from Gallo vineyards in Lodi, California, measured using an adjusted form of METRIC. Lower evapotranspiration is shown in red and higher is in blue. Courtesy of E. and J. Gallo.

 

 

E. and J. Gallo: Improving Irrigation Technology and Grape and Wine Quality

Landsat imagery is increasingly used in the private sector. E. and J. Gallo (Gallo), located in California, is the largest winery in the world and the first known company in the U.S. beverage industry to use Landsat data in viticulture practices. A pioneer of efficient water-management practices through Landsat, Gallo uses the imagery on approximately 20,000 acres of Gallo-owned vineyards from Southern California to Mendocino County.

 

 

 

 

Evapotranspiration mapping of a drip-irrigated vineyard in Chile using images from Landsat 7 ETM+.

Evapotranspiration mapping of a drip-irrigated vineyard in Chile using images from Landsat 7 ETM+. Courtesy of Universidad de Talca.

Vineyards and Apple and Olive Orchards, Chile

Landsat has been instrumental in helping Chile estimate water demand. The country often faces drought conditions, and although some level of water supply is guaranteed from dams and reservoirs, seasonal supply is uncertain. Agricultural production is a large enterprise in Chile, and water shortages create uncertainty in agricultural production as well as economic growth and sustainability. Landsat imagery allows the country to estimate seasonal demand and match it against seasonal supply to achieve optimal irrigation practices for maximum production.

 

 

 

 

Change in NDVI over time derived from Landsat images of the Russian River watershed. Courtesy of Sonoma County Water Agency.

Russian River NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index) Methodology and Use, California

In 2013, the SCWA updated the crop field GIS mapping in the watershed last completed in 2009. To facilitate the heads-up digitizing of crop fields, the SCWA developed a “screening tool” layer to identify changes in vegetation from the previous imagery to the most recent. The SCWA’s screening tool helped by highlighting changes using NDVI to track land use changes from 2006 to 2012. The SCWA calculated NDVI using the ArcMap NDVI function for two Landsat scenes from August 2006 and 2011. Imagery for the month of August was chosen because of reduced cloud cover as well as being far into the growing season.

 

Multi-temporal Landsat NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index) product overlaid on aerial photographs

Multi-temporal Landsat NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index) product overlaid on aerial photographs used in the delineation of yearly individual irrigated agriculture crop parcels near the South Platte River, Colorado. Courtesy of Riverside Technology, inc.

 

 

 

Colorado South Platte Decision Support System, Riverside Technology, inc.

Riverside has also worked with the CWCB to develop a DSS for the South Platte River in Colorado. An important component of the DSS is to perform irrigated lands delineation utilizing the Landsat platform and to provide information for decision making regarding water resources and agricultural crop production in the South Platte.

 

 

Evapotranspiration in the Russian River watershed determined using SEBAL analysis of Landsat imagery. Courtesy of Sonoma County

Evapotranspiration in the Russian River watershed determined using SEBAL analysis of Landsat imagery. Courtesy of Sonoma County Water Agency. (mm, millimeters)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sonoma County Water Agency, California

The lands along the Russian River of California are home to over 61,000 acres of vineyards. The wineries, offering tours and tastings as well as producing wine, contribute greatly to the economic prosperity of the region. The valley’s grapes produce some of the highest quality Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Noir wines. A thriving economy in the region depends on flourishing agricultural production while grape production relies on timely water availability for irrigation and frost control.

 

 

 

 

 

METRIC-derived evapotranspiration estimates for irrigated fields in eastern Colorado.

METRIC-derived evapotranspiration estimates for irrigated fields in eastern Colorado. Courtesy of Riverside Technology, inc.

 

 

StateCU and Landsat, Colorado Water Conservation Board and Riverside Technology, inc.

In the State of Colorado, Riverside Technology, inc. conducted a project, in collaboration with the CWCB, to compare traditional consumptive-use estimates from Colorado StateCU decision support system (DSS) and Landsat thermal data processed in METRIC. The results showed that application of METRIC model on Landsat thermal imagery provides more consistent output than that of the StateCU model. The METRIC model in conjunction with Landsat data is also able to identify consumptive use variation along the river reach.

 

 

The Global Agricultural Monitoring System is a joint project between USDA and NASA to monitor crop area

The Global Agricultural Monitoring System is a joint project between USDA and NASA to monitor crop area and yield using remote sensing data. Courtesy of U.S. Department of Agriculture, Foreign Agricultural Service.

 

 

USDA Foreign Agricultural Service Global Agricultural Monitoring

The Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) handles USDA international activities, including the monitoring and estimation of crop supply and demand across global markets. Estimates for foreign production, supply, and demand are developed primarily through agricultural attachés. Attachés are based in foreign embassies, primarily in countries representing potential markets for U.S. crops (fig. 1). FAS attachés are further assisted by the International Production Assessment Division (IPAD), which collects and analyzes global crop condition and production. IPAD crop production analysts and FAS Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) reports both provide crucial inputs for the monthly World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report.

 

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