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C-band synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imagery for the classification of diverse cropping systems

Dingle Robertson L., Davidson A.M., McNairn H., Hosseini M., Mitchell S.W., de Abelleyra D., Verón S.R., Le Maire G., Plannells M., Valero S., Ahmadian N., Coffin A., Bosch D., Cosh M.H., Basso B., Saliendra N.. 2020. International Journal of Remote Sensing, 41 (24) : p. 9628-9649.

DOI: 10.1080/01431161.2020.1805136

Cloudy conditions reduce the utility of optical imagery for crop monitoring. New constellations of satellites ¿ including the RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM) and Sentinel-1A/B, both available under free and open data policies ¿ can be used to create stacks of dense seasonal C-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data. Yet to date, the contribution of SAR imagery to operational crop mapping is often limited to that of a gap-filler, compensating for optical data obscured by clouds. The Joint Experiment for Crop Assessment and Monitoring (JECAM) SAR Inter-Comparison Experiment is a multi-year, multi-partner project focused on evaluating methods for SAR-based crop classification. Stacks of dense time-series SAR imagery, from RADARSAT-2 and Sentinel-1 satellites, were acquired for 10 sites located in six countries. Decision Tree (DT) and Random Forest (RF) classification methodologies were applied to these SAR data-stacks, as well as to data-stacks of optical only, and optimized SAR/optical data combinations. For the dense time-series SAR stacks, overall classification accuracies above 85% and 80% were obtained for 6 of 10 and 8 of 10 sites, respectively. For maize, the SAR-only data delivered user's and producer's accuracies greater than 90% for half the sites. For soya bean, accuracies greater than 80% were reported for 5 of 9 sites and classification accuracies were greater than 80% for wheat on half the sites. Classification results were influenced by the mix and number of agriculture classes present at each site, the available SAR imagery, as well as the training and validation data sets for individual crop types. These results have important operational implications for regions of the world dominated by cloudy conditions and the lack of adequate amounts of optical imagery to support satellite-based crop monitoring.

Mots-clés : radar à synthèse d'ouverture; système de culture; surveillance des cultures; imagerie par satellite; observation satellitaire; cartographie de l' utilisation des terres; cartographie de l'occupation du sol; analyse de séries chronologiques; données spatiales; nuage; conditions météorologiques; télédétection

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