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Potential of SAR sensors TerraSAR-X, ASAR/ENVISAT and PALSAR/ALOS for monitoring sugarcane crops on Reunion Island

Baghdadi N., Boyer N., Todoroff P., El Hajj M., Bégué A.. 2009. Remote Sensing of Environment, 113 (8) : p. 1724-1738.

DOI: 10.1016/j.rse.2009.04.005

This Multi-temporal TerraSAR-X, ASAR/ENVISAT and PALSAR SAR data acquired at various incidence angles and polarizations were analyzed to study the potential of these new spaceborne SAR systems for monitoring sugarcane crops. The sensitivity of different radar parameters (wavelength, incidence angles, and polarization) to sugarcane growth stages was analyzed to determine the most suitable radar configuration for better characterisation of sugarcane fields and in particular the monitoring of sugarcane harvest. Correlation between backscattered signals and crop height was also carried out. Radar signal increased quickly with sugarcane height until a threshold height, which depended on radar wavelength and incidence angle. Beyond this threshold, the signal increased only slightly, remained constant, or even decreased. The threshold height is higher with longer wavelengths (L-band in comparison with C- and X-bands) and higher incidence angles (~40° in comparison with ~20°). The radar backscattering coefficients (?°) were also compared to the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) calculated from SPOT-4/5 images. Results showed a high correlation between the behaviors of ?° and NDVI as a function of sugarcane crop parameters. A decrease in NDVI for fully mature sugarcane fields due to drying of the sugarcane (water stress) was also observed in the radar signal. This decrease in radar signal was of the same order as the decrease in radar signal after the sugarcane harvest. In general, it ismore suitable tomonitor the sugarcane harvest using high incidence angles regardless of the radarwavelength. SAR data in L- and C-bands showed an ambiguity between the signals of ploughed fields and those of fields in vegetation because of the high sensitivity of the radar signal at thesewavelengths to surface roughness of bare soils. Indeed, sometimes the radar signal of ploughed fields was of the same order as that of harvested or mature sugarcane fields. Results showed better discrimination betweenploughed fields and sugarcane fields in vegetation (sugarcane canopy)when using TerraSAR-X data (X-band). Concerning the influence of radar polarization, results showed that the co-polarizations channels (HH and VV) were well correlated, but had slightly less potential than cross-polarization channels (HV and VH) for the detection of the sugarcane harvest. Finally, SAR data at high spatial resolution were shown to be useful and necessary for better analysis of SAR images when the fields were of small size.

Mots-clés : saccharum officinarum; récolte; surveillance des cultures; télédétection; radar; imagerie par satellite; image spot; réunion; france

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