Combined use of optical and radar satellite data for the monitoring of irrigation and soil moisture of wheat crops
Abstract. The objective of this study is to get a better understanding of radar signal over irrigated wheat fields and to assess the potentialities of radar observations for the monitoring of soil moisture. Emphasis is put on the use of high spatial and temporal resolution satellite data (Envisat/ASAR and Formosat-2). Time series of images were collected over the Yaqui irrigated area (Mexico) throughout one agricultural season from December 2007 to May 2008, together with measurements of soil and vegetation characteristics and agricultural practices. The comprehensive analysis of these data indicates that the sensitivity of the radar signal to vegetation is masked by the variability of soil conditions. On-going irrigated areas can be detected all over the wheat growing season. The empirical algorithm developed for the retrieval of topsoil moisture from Envisat/ASAR images takes advantage of the Formosat-2 instrument capabilities to monitor the seasonality of wheat canopies. This monitoring is performed using dense time series of images acquired by Formosat-2 to set up the SAFY vegetation model. Topsoil moisture estimates are not reliable at the timing of plant emergence and during plant senescence. Estimates are accurate from tillering to grain filling stages with an absolute error about 9% (0.09 m3 m−3, 35% in relative value). This result is attractive since topsoil moisture is estimated at a high spatial resolution (i.e. over subfields of about 5 ha) for a large range of biomass water content (from 5 and 65 t ha−1 independently from the viewing angle of ASAR acquisition (incidence angles IS1 to IS6).