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Soil & Tillage Research 138 (2014) 2634

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Soil & Tillage Research


journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/still

Review

Remote sensing of crop residue and tillage practices: Present capabilities and future prospects
Baojuan Zheng a,*, James B. Campbell b, Guy Serbin c, John M. Galbraith d
a

School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, Arizona State University, Coor Hall, 5th Floor, Tempe, AZ 85281, USA Department of Geography, Virginia Tech, 115 Major Williams Hall, Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA c Spatial Analysis Unit, Teagasc Ashtown Research Centre, Ashtown, Dublin 15, Ireland d Department of Crop & Soil Environmental Sciences, Virginia Tech, 239 Smyth Hall, Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA
b

A R T I C L E I N F O

A B S T R A C T

Article history: Received 29 August 2013 Received in revised form 3 December 2013 Accepted 12 December 2013 Keywords: Remote sensing Tillage Crop residue Agriculture Review Environment

Sustainable agricultural management is essential not only to maintain productivity of current farmlands, but also to conserve natural environments. Records of agricultural activities are required to assist rapid assessment of agricultural lands, and thus, designation of management plans and policies. By the 1980s, when unfavorable environmental impacts of conventional tillage practices were widely recognized, agronomists introduced conservation tillage to benet soils and agricultural environments, and soon began programs to monitor adoption of conservation tillage practices. The role of remote sensing in acquiring this information has been increasing because remote sensing technologies can provide the broad scope and the ability to collect sequential imagery to estimate trends and patterns of adoption of alternative tillage practices. This review encompasses comparisons of remote sensing techniques with more conventional methods for surveying and estimating tillage status, applications of remote sensing technologies, data processing and analysis, validation and eld data collection, impacts of terrain, spectral and spatial resolution, timing and temporal detail, and prospects of future instruments. 2014 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Contents 1. 2. Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Background . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Tillage practices and crop residue cover . . . . . . . . . 2.1. Temporal dimensions to tillage assessment . . . . . . 2.2. Optical remote sensing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Regression-based approaches . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.1. Tillage indices . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.1.1. Optical remote sensing platforms . . . . . . . 3.1.2. Data mining approaches . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.2. Image preprocessing: atmospheric corrections . . . . 3.3. Radar . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Critical variables signicant for tillage assessment . 4.1. Experimental Context . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4.1.1. Wavelength . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4.1.2. Incidence angle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4.1.3. Polarization and row direction . . . . . . . . . 4.1.4. 4.1.5. Roughness . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Residue type and condition. . . . . . . . . . . . 4.1.6. Platforms for orbital SAR tillage survey . . . . . . . . . . 4.2. Challenges and future possibilities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The critical role of revisit interval . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5.1. 5.2. STARFM . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27 27 27 27 28 28 28 29 30 30 30 30 30 31 31 31 31 31 31 32 32 32

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* Corresponding author. Tel.: +1 646 750 7087. E-mail address: bzheng11@asu.edu (B. Zheng). 0167-1987/$ see front matter 2014 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.still.2013.12.009

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5.3. 5.4. 5.5. 5.6.

Role of local soils and terrain . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Local and regional tillage assessment models . . Status of current remote sensing systems . . . . . The context for operational tillage assessment . References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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1. Introduction Global population growth and increasing demands for food, products, and energy create signicant pressures on the environment (Kiers et al., 2008). Worldwide, the FAO (2011) estimates that approximately one billion people are undernourished, and extreme climatic events, such as the severe and widespread drought conditions in the United States (US) in 2012, illustrate the vulnerability of our current food security system. Humans face immense challenges to feed the worlds population and to simultaneously maintain and improve environmental conditions (Foley et al., 2011). Although we have successfully increased food production and reduced hunger, agricultural activities have also caused substantial environmental issues, such as increased CO2 and other greenhouse gas emission, soil degradation, biodiversity loss, and water degradation due to excessive nutrient leaching (Foley et al., 2011). Thus, sustainable agricultural management, i.e., the ability to maintain or increase current yields without further environmental degradation, plays an important role in addressing the worlds challenges to improve food security and environmental conservation. Crop residue management, one of agricultures most important conservation measures, has been deployed in many countries around the world to reduce soil erosion, labor input, fuel consumption, and to enhance water use efciency and soil fertility (Derpsch et al., 2010). Monitoring crop residue management benets both crop production and environmental sustainability because it permits evaluation of management practices and assists designation of effective sustainable management plans and policies. No-till cultivation is practiced in almost every country in the world, but the United States is one of the few countries that surveys tillage practices (Derpsch et al., 2010). However, the US national survey program was discontinued after 2004, and at present only limited numbers of counties have volunteered to continue acquiring tillage data (CTIC, 2013). Currently, acquisition of tillage data relies on manual eld-data collection, survey responses, and agricultural censuses, but it is extremely difcult to acquire the data systematically and continuously over large areas using these methods. Alternatively, remote sensing techniques have the potential to survey tillage practices inexpensively and efciently in a systematic, timely, and cost-effective manner. Remote sensing offers two technologies that have potential for this task: (1) optical systems that passively collect reected solar radiation in the optical and mid-infrared regions to record spectra of signatures of cellulose in plant debris, as well as to detect soil surface disturbances, and (2) microwave sensors that actively illuminate the landscape with microwave radiation, then receive the backscattered radiation that are sensitive to roughness of soil surface and plant debris, and to moisture status at varied depths (Campbell and Wynne, 2011). Although numerous studies have examined applications of remote sensing to survey tillage practices, none of the proposed strategies have been adopted to map tillage practices at broad scales. One possible reason is that mapping techniques are still in their developmental stages. Each new technique requires rigorous testing and validation before operational implementation can be considered. In addition, issues such as the lack of satellite observations and ground validation, remotely sensed data quality,

and effects of soil variation also prevent broad-scale implementation of tillage mapping. Thus, the objective of this paper is to provide a comprehensive review of the latest progress in tillage mapping. This paper rst provides background information pertain to tillage (Section 2), reviews different methodologies according to sensor technologies: optical (Section 3) and radar (Section 4), and then discusses challenges and potential directions for future research in tillage monitoring (Section 5). 2. Background 2.1. Tillage practices and crop residue cover Tillage practices disturb soils in different ways, leaving varying amounts of crop residues on the soil surface (Huggins and Reganold, 2008), but they can be classied into two broad categories. Tillage practices that leave 30% or more crop residue cover after tillage and planting are dened as conservation tillage, while those leaving less than 30% crop residue are nonconservation tillage (CTIC, 2002). Conservation tillage includes no-till (zero-till/strip-till), ridge-till, and mulch-till. Non-conservation tillage consists of reduced-till (1530% crop residue remaining) and conventional-till (intensive-till) (<15% crop residue remaining). No-till/strip-till usually disturbs <30% of row width (CTIC, 2002; USDA-NRCS, 2006). Because cause and effect relationships exist between types of tillage practices and crop residue cover, we can apply remote sensing to observe the soil surface to identify different types of tillage practices. 2.2. Temporal dimensions to tillage assessment Although local crop calendars, local management practices, and local weather form integral components of tillage assessment at any scale, it is at the broad scales of regional assessment that they must be explicitly considered to effectively apply remote sensing analysis to the tillage assessment task. Farmers consider the responses of each of their elds to local weather, soil conditions, and crop types as they prepare for planting, so timing of tillage will vary from place to place across the landscape, creating a mosaic of different tillage conditions as planting operations mature at different times. Tillage assessment requires collection of data from immense areas within a short time. For example, planted corn area for the US has been estimated at 97.4 million acres for the 2013 growing season (USDA-NASS, 2013a). Even at the county scale, a complete tillage survey requires assessment of thousands of individual elds within a short interval at the start of the growing season, between the beginning of preparation of soil for planting, and the later emergence of the new crop, an interval of less than eight weeks in most instances for the US Corn Belt within the Midwestern United States. Within this interval, the task requires acquisition of several sequential images of the surveyed area. Ideally, the image sequence must begin before tillage is applied, and end after the end of planting season. Despite a wide awareness of variation in tillage application and planting dates from eld to eld, the idea to incorporate temporal dimensions into tillage mapping had not been implemented until

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recently by Watts et al. (2011). Timing is very important for tillage data acquisitions. In situ acquisition of tillage data should be always conducted at the end of planting season to ensure that the majority of agricultural elds have been planted. However, most crops have emerged at the end of the planting season, and the emerged plants weaken our ability to observe tillage patterns from above using remote sensing imagery, because green vegetation can confound crop residue signals (Daughtry et al., 2005; Serbin et al., 2009a; Zheng et al., 2012) and fully emerged crops can conceal evidence of the tillage practices. Several early studies (Gowda et al., 2001; Daughtry et al., 2005; Sullivan et al., 2008; Thoma et al., 2004) circumvented this issue by choosing elds that are tilled close to the image acquisition dates or excluding elds that have evidence of green vegetation. While it guaranteed success of their studies, a single image method or single date can only record an incomplete picture of the tillage pattern. Therefore, success in tillage assessment is not dependent on picking the right timing to acquire the tillage information, but on utilizing multi-temporal imagery to provide a full picture of tillage patterns for a region (Zheng et al., 2012).

3.1. Regression-based approaches 3.1.1. Tillage indices Crop residue (non-photosynthetic vegetation) and soils have similar spectra, but crop residue has a unique absorption feature near 2100 nm associated with cellulose and lignin (Daughtry, 2001). This absorption feature forms the basis for differentiation of crop residue from soils using optical remote sensing imagery. Consequently, the absorption feature forms the basis for devising several tillage indices to magnify the crop residue signal, while suppressing spectral signals from soils and green vegetation. We summarize tillage indices from recent studies into three categories according to the types of sensors: hyperspectral, Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reection Radiometer (ASTER), and Landsat-based tillage indices (Table 1). The Cellulose Absorption Index (CAI), one of the hyperspectral tillage indices, is most sensitive to crop residue (Serbin et al., 2009a), followed by ASTER and Landsat-based tillage indices because ASTER and Landsat spectral bands are wider and therefore less sensitive to the presence of residue than hyperspectral bands. In general, tillage indices calculated based upon the 2100 nm cellulose absorption region (i.e., ASTER bands 6 & 7 and Landsat band 7) outperform those that are not based upon cellulose absorption (Serbin et al., 2009a). The Shortwave Infrared Normalized Difference Residue Index (SINDRI) is the best ASTER tillage index, while Normalized Difference Tillage Index (NDTI) is the best Landsat-based tillage index (Serbin et al., 2009a,b). Although tillage indices were designed in a way that maximizes our ability to detect various amounts of crop residue on the ground, they are subject to the inuence of emerging green vegetation and of variation in the soil background. The magnitudes of these inuences vary depending on the spectral resolutions of the sensors. Tillage indices with wider spectral bands have higher levels of sensitivity to green vegetation and soil variation. As a

3. Optical remote sensing Optical remote sensing sensors record reective radiation in the visible, near infrared, and shortwave infrared bands (Fig. 1). We can differentiate different materials/objects and monitor biophysical properties of the earths environment because different materials absorb and reect differently at different wavelengths. According to the number of bands used in the system, optical remote sensing can be divided into multispectral and hyperspectral imaging systems (Fig. 1). While multispectral imagery consists of several bands, hyperspectral imagery consists of more than dozens of bands.

Fig. 1. General overview of satellite remote sensing.

B. Zheng et al. / Soil & Tillage Research 138 (2014) 2634 Table 1 Summary of satellite optical remote sensing of crop residue cover and tillage practices. Sensor AVIRIS Hyperion Tillage indices CAI Formula 100 [0.5(R2030 + R2210) R2100] Description R2030 and R2210 are the reectances of the shoulders at 2030 nm and 2210 nm, R2100 is at the center of the absorption B5, B6, B7, B8: ASTER shortwave infrared bands 5, 6, 7, and 8 References Daughtry et al. (2005) Daughtry et al. (2006)

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ASTER

LCA SINDRI STI NDTI Modied Crop Residue Cover NDI5; NDI7

100(2 B6 B5 B8) (B6 B7)/(B6 + B7) B5/B7 (B5 B7)/(B5 + B7) (B5 B2)/(B5 + B2) (B4 B5)/(B4 + B5); (B4 B7)/(B4 + B7) (B5 B7)/(B5 + B7)

Daughtry et al. (2005) Serbin et al. (2009b) van Deventer et al. (1997) van Deventer et al. (1997) Sullivan et al. (2006) McNairn and Protz (1993)

Landsat TM and ETM+

B2, B4, B5, B7: Landsat bands 2, 4, 5, and 7

ALI MODIS

NDTI

B5 and B7

Galloza et al. (2013) None

result, Landsat-based tillage indices can be easily confounded by the presence of green vegetation and by variation in soil color and soil moisture (Zheng et al., 2013a). Although CAI and SINDRI are less sensitive to green vegetation, previous research suggested removal of pixels if the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) is greater than 0.30 (Daughtry et al., 2005; Serbin et al., 2009a). Daughtry and Hunt (2008) found that increases in soil water content decrease CAI values under laboratory conditions. Wet soil conditions did not signicantly bias estimation of crop residue cover using CAI and SINDRI derived from airborne and satellite remote sensing imagery (Serbin et al., 2009b), however, wet soils caused underestimation of crop residue cover using Landsat NDTI (Zheng et al., 2013a). Despite the report by Serbin et al. (2009a) that CAI values of soils increase from negative to zero as organic carbon increases, the effect of soil organic carbon on Landsat NDTI is still unreported. Serbin et al. (2009a) conducted a comprehensive study on the effect of soil properties on remote sensing of crop residue cover. However, incorporation of soil information to improve crop residue estimation is still challenging due to the lack of spatial information describing local variations of surface soil properties. Several soil-adjusted tillage indices were also developed to minimize the effects of soil background, such as Crop Residue Index Multiband (CRIM) (Biard and Baret, 1997) and Modied Soil Adjusted Corn Residue Index (MSACRI) (Bannari et al., 2000), but they were all developed based upon lab-measured spectra and their performance has not been tested on satellite data. 3.1.2. Optical remote sensing platforms Sensors with moderate spatial resolution that are able to measure reective energy near the 2100 nm spectral region have shown their ability to map crop residue cover (Daughtry et al., 2006; Serbin et al., 2009b; Zheng et al., 2012). The Airborne Visible/ Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (AVIRIS) and EO-1 Hyperion images are effective in estimating crop residue (Daughtry et al., 2005, 2006). The CAI values of AVIRIS and Hyperion were linearly related to crop residue with R2 > 0.77 for calibration (Daughtry et al., 2005, 2006). While the correlation between CAI and crop residue is strong, the very limited spatial and temporal coverages of AVIRIS and Hyperion hyperspectral imagery prevents broad-scale application. Alternatively, spaceborne multispectral imagery provides extended coverage of the Earth repetitively with minimal costs. Current satellite multispectral sensors that provide spectral bands covering the cellulose absorption spectral region include Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), Advanced Land Imager (ALI), ASTER, Landsat 4 and 5 Thematic Mapper (TM), Landsat 7 Enhanced Thematic Mapper (ETM+), and Landsat 8 Operational Land Imager (OLI). In addition to consideration of spectral regions, identication of images with appropriate

spectral, spatial, and temporal resolutions is required for crop residue mapping. MODIS imagery is not suitable for mapping crop residues because its coarse spatial resolution (500 m for bands 5 and 7) causes mixed pixel problems for eld-scale analysis. ASTER data have narrower spectral bands compared to Landsat imagery. Thus, the ASTER SINDRI is less sensitive to the effects of green vegetation (Serbin et al., 2009b) than Landsat indices. However, the ASTER SWIR sensor is no longer functioning due to detector failure in April 2008 (NASA/JPL, 2011), so ASTER imagery is no longer capable of crop residue cover estimation. ALI and Landsat TM/ ETM+/OLI are all Landsat-type instruments. However, the ALI sensor is only activated to acquire specic scenes upon request and has a very small footprint. Therefore, the limited spatial and temporal coverage of ALI imagery constrains our ability to map crop residue at large scales. There are numerous studies examining Landsat TM/ETM+ imagerys capability to map crop residue and to differentiate tillage practices. Landsat imagery draws a signicant amount of scientic attention because it is freely available and provides a long-term synoptic view of the Earth. Early studies were able to differentiate conventional tillage from conservation tillage using logistic regression on NDTI (van Deventer et al., 1997; Gowda et al., 2001) or using multiple linear regression on several spectral bands (Thoma et al., 2004). However, Landsat NDTI data failed to estimate crop residue cover using single Landsat images (Daughtry et al., 2006). Such poor performance is largely because Landsat band 7 is spectrally too coarsely dened (20802350 nm) to separate cellulose absorption signals from those of green vegetation (Serbin et al., 2009a). Due to different timings of tillage and planting, eld surface conditions vary from eld to eld. A one-time snapshot of agricultural lands is unable to show correct tillage status for all elds due to the effects of green vegetation (Zheng et al., 2012). One way to address the vegetation confounding issue is to utilize spectral unmixing techniques (Pacheco and McNairn, 2010). Although Pacheco and McNairn (2010) were able to estimate crop residue cover by applying spectral unmixing approaches to mixed pixels of residue and soils, it is unclear how well the technique could unmix a mixed spectrum of vegetation, soils, and crop residue using multispectral data. Another method is to detect recently tilled surfaces using multi-temporal techniques (Zheng et al., 2012). The multi-temporal approach, designated as minNDTI (Zheng et al., 2012), simply extracts minimum NDTI values from time-series NDTI spectral proles. The resulting minNDTI image eliminates spectral effects of green vegetation, analogous to a maximum-value MODIS NDVI composite image which screens out cloud-contaminated pixels. Zheng et al. (2012) found that minNDTI was strongly correlated with crop residue cover with R2 of 0.89 in Central Indiana. However, lower correlations (R2 of 0.660.89) between minNDTI and crop residue

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were observed when the technique was applied to four additional locations in Illinois, Iowa, Northern Indiana, and Maryland (Zheng et al., 2013a). The less satisfactory performance of minNDTI when applied to a broader region was ascribed to inability of NDTI to account for soil variations due to the broadness of Landsat spectral bands (Zheng et al., 2013a). Nevertheless, the minNDTI approach signicantly improves the effectiveness of Landsat imagery to estimate crop residue cover and to classify tillage categories (Zheng et al., 2012). 3.2. Data mining approaches In addition to the regression-based approaches which examine the physical relationship between tillage indices and crop residue, other researchers explored data mining methodologies (Bricklemyer et al., 2006; Sudheer et al., 2010; Watts et al., 2009, 2011). Data mining techniques are able to quantify nonlinear relationships, and require no human knowledge of underlying physical relationships between spectral data and the objects of interest. Several data-driven models have been applied to Landsat imagery to classify two broad tillage categories, including Articial Neural Network (ANN) (Sudheer et al., 2010), Classication Tree Analysis (CTA) (Bricklemyer et al., 2006; Watts et al., 2009, 2011), and support vector machine (Samui et al., 2012). These studies reported mixed results. Samui et al. (2012) reported superiority of support vector machine over logistic regression models. Sudheer et al. (2010) and Watts et al. (2009, 2011) yielded good results using CTA. However, Bricklemyer et al. (2006) failed to detect tilled farms on a June 26 Landsat ETM+ image. The poor performance reported by Bricklemyer et al. (2006) is likely due to the presence of crop canopy on some surveyed farms. Thus, with the presence of various amount of green vegetation on elds, data-driven based models might fail to differentiate different tillage practices using single-date images, unless a region has an unusually short time window of tilling and planting activities. In addition, crop canopies can completely block the view of crop residue for some agricultural elds if imagery was acquired in the late planting season. Watts et al. (2011) successfully improved tillage classication accuracy by incorporating high temporal resolution data into a random forest classier, showing that local differences in times of tillage and planting in response to variations in terrain and climate require incorporation of multi-date images into the data-driven approaches. There are several advantages of CTA and random forest classier: (1) able to handle both numerical and categorical data; (2) require little data preparation; (3) work well with large datasets; (4) use a white box model. In contrast, ANN is a black box approach. Because it is hard to interpret the resulting models from ANN, the models often cannot be generalized well to new data. However, there are limitations to CTA and random forests. Locally optimized models from CTA and random forests might not be generalized well to other locations, and overtting can create errors in the analysis. 3.3. Image preprocessing: atmospheric corrections Generally, image classication using a single-date image does not require atmospheric correction because it is reasonable to assume that atmospheric condition is homogeneous within each scene. In contrast, multi-temporal analyses often require atmospheric correction. Early studies of tillage mapping have used dark object (e.g., shadows and water bodies) subtraction (Chavez, 1988) and multiple-date empirical radiometric normalization (Jensen, 1996) to preprocess Landsat imagery. However, these two methods often fail to provide reliable, consistent surface reectance data when the analysis requires several images acquired at different dates. In recent years, the Landsat Science Team has been

making efforts to provide higher-level Landsat data products. Landsat data users have access to the top of atmospheric (TOA) correction products from Web-enabled Landsat Data (WELD) (Roy et al., 2010) and to Landsat Ecosystem Disturbance Adaptive Processing System (LEDAPS) (Masek et al., 2006), a preprocessing tool using the MODIS/6S approach, to produce TOA and surface reectance Landsat TM/ETM+ data. LEDAPS has been proven to be a reliable tool. Users are now able to order Landsat surface reectance data directly from EarthExplorer (http://earthexplorer.usgs.gov/) and USGS ESPA (EROS Science Processing Architecture) ordering interface (https://espa.cr.usgs.gov) without installing the LEDAPS tool (USGS, 2013), which can benet land surface change studies and future operational implementation of tillage mapping. 4. Radar Imaging radars create images of the Earth by broadcasting microwave energy toward the earth from aircraft or satellite platforms, then receiving the backscattered radiation to form maplike imagery of the landscape (Fig. 1). Current imaging radars are based upon synthetic aperture radar (SAR) technology, which is especially effective in acquiring imagery at ne spatial scales. Although broadly considered, specic imaging radars are designed to use microwave radiation at frequencies between 0.3 GHz and 30 GHz, corresponding to wavelengths within the interval of 1 cm 1 m, specic systems usually under consideration for agricultural applications operate at X-band (812 GHz), C-band (48 GHz), or L-band (12 GHz). Most SARs operate at center frequencies of 9.65 GHz for X-band, 5.40 GHz for C-band, and 1.27 GHz for Lband. For our present discussion, SAR, microwave, and radar refer here to imaging radars currently used for earth observation. Whereas optical systems basically convey information about biological properties of crop residue, SAR imagery conveys information about the physical structure of crop residue, the soil surface, and its moisture status. SAR systems have the advantages of all-weather capabilities, ne spatial resolution, and capabilities for both daytime and nighttime acquisitions. As active remote sensing systems, specics of the transmitted microwave radiation are known with precision, so differences observed in the received backscatter can be analyzed in detail. As a result, researchers examine not only the strength of the backscatter, but also multiple variables derived from polarization and wavelength. Backscattered microwave energy is often reported as the normalized backscattering coefcient (s8). 4.1. Critical variables signicant for tillage assessment In operation, each instrument is characterized by specic wavelengths, incidence angles, look directions, and polarizations, as well as interactions between the microwave signal and the landscape (penetration, depolarization, brightness), and characteristics of the landscape (including surface roughness, moisture, row direction, residue type, residue size, and residue moisture content). Together, these varied data create complex multivariate systems that must be carefully analyzed to determine their ability to assess tillage status. The brief review below highlights some of the issues that pertain to applications of active microwave remote sensing for tillage assessment. McNairn and Brisco (2004) and Adams et al. (2013) provide comprehensive reviews of current research. 4.1.1. Experimental Context Research exploring the effectiveness of microwave radiation for tillage assessment relies principally upon eld experiments using truck-mounted scatterometers, with antennas mounted on movable

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booms. In this context, researchers have the ability to alter the orientation of the antenna, and to change wavelength and polarization as needed to conduct the experiment. Typical experimental plots measure perhaps 40 m 40 m in size, usually positioned in an agricultural setting, specically in situations that permit alteration of tillage and moisture conditions as needed to meet research objectives. Brisco et al. (1991) have conrmed the effectiveness eld-based experiments for understanding behavior of remotely acquired microwave data. McNairn et al. (2001) report that their scatterometer results conrm earlier experiments that microwave backscatter is sensitive to the presence of crop residue. However, microwave data are also sensitive to a multiplicity of sensor characteristics, including wavelength, incidence angle, polarization, and look direction. In addition, SAR data are also sensitive to soil surface conditions (i.e., soil moisture and surface roughness) (Bruckler et al., 1988). Backscattered SAR signals are mainly affected by slope, surface roughness, crop residue, and dielectric properties associated with soil moisture (Fung, 1994; McNairn et al., 2002). Early studies found that various tillage treatments caused different soil surface roughness, and hence inuenced radar backscattering (Brisco et al., 1991; McNairn et al., 1996). SAR scattering increases with increases in surface roughness. Thus, backscatter (s8) values of rough surfaces are higher than those of smooth surfaces (Moran et al., 2002; Hadria et al., 2009). 4.1.2. Wavelength The effectiveness of SAR systems for tillage assessment is closely linked to wavelength of the instrument; signals transmitted at longer wavelengths will tend to penetrate deeper into the soil surface, and thereby are less sensitive to the presence of crop residue. As a result, the relatively short wavelengths of X- and Cband SAR systems are likely to be effective for tillage assessment. 4.1.3. Incidence angle Baghdadi et al. (2002, 2008) found that radar signals are more sensitive to surface roughness observed at higher incidence angles. Because signal penetration increases at steeper observation angles (i.e., lower incidence angles), in principal, observation at higher incidence angles tends to reduce signal penetration and to increase sensitivity to the presence of surface residue (McNairn et al., 1996). 4.1.4. Polarization and row direction Crop residue cover has stronger correlations with crosspolarized backscatter than co-polarized backscatter (McNairn et al., 2001). Cross-polarized backscatter has the additional benet of reduced sensitivity to radar look direction effects (Brisco et al., 1991; McNairn and Brisco, 2004), because, higher co-polarized backscatter (HH and VV) values are observed when row directions perpendicular to the look direction rather than parallel to the look direction (Beaudoin et al., 1990). Brisco et al.s (1991) study, at L, C, and Ku bands, found that row directions within 10158 of perpendicular can impact radar backscatter by several decibels, creating artifacts that lead to differences in backscatter within elds with the same crop (McNairn and Brisco, 2004). These effects are often visible as angular patterns (known as bowtie effects) arising from changes in row direction as harvesting or tillage equipment traverses elds. Such bowtie effects are strongest in like-polarized mode, but not present in cross-polarized mode (as observed in C-band aerial SAR data). Agricultural elds with little or no residue cover are generally dominated by surface scattering, while no-till elds are dominated by multiple and volume scattering (McNairn et al., 2002). In addition to cross-polarized linear backscatter, McNairn et al. (2002) found that crop residue cover was also signicantly correlated with two polarimetric parameters: co-polarized circular backscatter and pedestal height,

which are associated with volume scattering and multiple scattering. However, crop residue cover only accounted for about 40% of variance in these radar parameters, while surface roughness explained about 60% of variance in all seven radar parameters examined by McNairn et al. (2002). Given ndings from these previous studies, estimation of crop residue cover using microwave responses alone is difcult. 4.1.5. Roughness Brisco et al. (1991) found that differences in soil surface roughness caused by use of alternative tillage implements had signicant effects on s8. The magnitude of the change in s8 was similar to the difference in s8 of parallel versus perpendicular row aspect angles for like polarized data, although the cross-polarized channels were less sensitive to row direction. Thus, polarization ratios may be useful for evaluating row direction inuences. They recommend further research to understand effects of soil type, soil moisture, and row azimuth angles between 0 and 908 on s8. 4.1.6. Residue type and condition McNairn et al. (2001), in eld experiments, investigated the sensitivity of C- and L-band data to variations in residue type and moisture content. Both corn and barley residues were found to retain high levels of moisture (60%, and 4050%, respectively), which varied considerably in response to wetting and drying events. Stronger backscatter was associated with higher moisture levels, especially with respect to moist corn residue observed by Cband cross-polarized data at shallow incidence angles. Crosspolarized backscatter was found to be sensitive to both corn and barley residue, and generally insensitive to variations in look direction and row orientation. Although many of McNairn et al. (2001) ndings supported the potential role of satellite SAR observation of tillage status, they were careful to highlight effects of temporal and spatial variability present within the agricultural landscape under operational conditions: . . . results presented in this paper conrm that radar backscatter is sensitive to crop residue. However conditions on agricultural elds are complex, with soil and residue characteristics changing temporally, varying across elds, and varying from one eld to the next. Although these scatterometer results are encouraging, care must be taken in extrapolating results from controlled experiments to operationally mapping exercises (p. 257). They specically highlighted the likelihood of confusion between rough tillage surfaces and high residue cover, especially for ner residues. Their concerns represent another example of the phenomena encountered by Zheng et al.s (2013a) study of optical imagery, when they found that local terrain conditions outside the range of those encountered in their pilot studies complicated their application of the minNDTI technique. It seems likely that studies in microwave realm, with a large number of variables, will encounter similar issues as they extend applications from controlled experiments to encounter the full range of landscape conditions necessary for operational applications. 4.2. Platforms for orbital SAR tillage survey Of the numerous SAR satellite systems, each with distinctive characteristics (Table 2), only a few are suitable as potential systems for broad-scale tillage assessment. For systematic survey of tillage status, practicality mandates that imaged areas should be large enough to permit survey at regional scales within short time intervals. For this discussion, we suggest that imaged areas perhaps 100 km 100 km in size might form an arbitrary, but useful, standard. (For comparison, we note that this area is smaller than that of a Landsat scene (170 km N-S 183 km E-W.) Because current strategies for tillage assessment require acquisition of

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Table 2 Characteristics of selected synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite systems. System ERS-1 JERS-1 SIR-C RADARSAT-1 ERS-2 ENVISAT-ASAR ALOS-PALSAR RADARSAT-2 TerraSAR-Xa COSMO-SkyMed Constellation SAR-Lupe (5 satellites) TanDEM-X RADARSAT Constellation Dates of service 19912000 19921998 1994 19952013 19952011 20022010 20062011 2007present 2007present 2007present 2006present 2010present 2018 Wavelength/ frequency band C L L, C, X C C C L C X X X X C Polarization VV HH Full HH VV Dual Full Full Full Dual Full Full Full Spatial resolution (m) 25 18 30 8100 25 30/150 10/100 9100 16 30 <1 18 30 Swath width/ frame size (km) 102 75 1590 45500 102 100/400 30360 25170 100 100 8 60a 100150 125 Revisit interval Varied 44 days N/A 24 days 35 days 35 days 46 days 24 days 2.5 days 115 days 11 h 2.5 days 24 h Incidence angles (8) 3238 2026 Multiple 1060 1926 1545 7.960 4960 1560 2550 Multiple 2065 2147

Note: This table lists selected systems with simplied details because some systems offer several acquisition modes that prevent concise summarization. When possible, the congurations most likely to be suitable for tillage assessment have been listed. Please refer to Campbell and Salomonson (2010) for a more complete list. L-, C-, and X-bands denote systems operating in the 12, 48, and 812 GHz frequency bands, respectively. V and H denote vertical and horizontal polarizations respectively for the transmitted and received signals; dual means that either two co-polarized or one co- and one cross-polarized modes were received in an acquisition. a Stripmap modes.

several scenes during the planting season, tillage assessment requires a revisit time of perhaps two weeks or less. From results of eld research programs mentioned previously, an operational SAR system should, at a minimum, require full polarization, and use shorter wavelengths, likely C- or X-band. From eld research, effective assessment of tillage status would favor systems that permit observation at large incidence angles. The older systems in Table 2 seem unsuitable for tillage assessment because of their long revisit times, or in some instances, other qualities. Some of the more recent systems, specically, TerraSAR-X/TanDEM-X, COSMO_SkyMed constellation, and the planned ESA Sentinel-1 and RADARSAT constellation, appear to have system parameters (wavelength, polarization, revisit time, and size of imaged area) that would permit their use for tillage assessment missions. Still uncertain at this time are an understanding of full effects of phenomena such as row direction, incidence angle, and moisture levels of crop residues, which could inuence effectiveness of these systems for tillage assessment. 5. Challenges and future possibilities Broad-scale mapping of tillage practices is still challenged because of several major issues: (1) varied timing of soil preparation and planting, (2) confounding issues caused by soil variation and green vegetation, (3) relatively low revisit rates of moderate-spatial resolution imagery (such as Landsat and ASTER), (4) dening appropriate spatial scales for applying local and regional models, and (5) future availability of satellite systems with capabilities for broad-scale tillage assessment. 5.1. The critical role of revisit interval Agricultural land surfaces change so rapidly due to soil and residue management, and crop growth, that the ability of a sensor to frequently revisit the same location is critical for monitoring agricultural activities, crop growth, and prediction of crop yields. While Zheng et al.s (2012) minNDTI multi-temporal technique could eliminate green vegetation effects with an adequate number of Landsat observations, the eight-day revisit rate of combined Landsat 8 OLI and 7 ETM+ cannot guarantee a cloud-free image every two weeks, especially in tropical regions or other areas that have persistent cloud cover. Crop progress and condition reports from agricultural agencies provide information of local crop and eld conditions, which can assist selection of appropriate satellite observations according to the timing of

planting and crop emergence (Zheng et al., 2013a). Landsat 7 ETM+ has experienced data gap issues since 2003 because of the scan line corrector (SLC) off issue (USGS, 2010), which makes implementation of the minNDTI technique more difcult. The remote sensing community has made signicant efforts to ll Landsat 7 SLC-off data gaps. The Landsat 5 TM stopped operating in November 2011, and was decommissioned in May 2013. The successful launch of Landsat 8 in February 2013 restores applicability of the minNDTI technique, but Landsat 7 ETM+ imagery is still required to boost the number of acquisitions. Zheng et al. (2013b) incorporated a multi-scale segmentation method specically tailored to ll missing NDTI values in Landsat 7 ETM+ SLC-off imagery to facilitate broad-scale tillage mapping. They presented county tillage maps with information of three tillage categories, i.e., non-conservation tillage (<30% crop residue), conservation tillage (3070% residue), conservation tillage-no till (>70% residue) (Zheng et al., 2013b). Cloud- and cloud shadow-contaminated pixels in a time series image will decrease the number of observations for those pixel locations. Consequently, estimation of tillage status for the cloud-contaminated pixels could be less accurate. Providing a quality assessment map with indications of how many times each pixel is contaminated by clouds and cloud shadows is necessary to inform users about the quality of a tillage map at pixel level. 5.2. STARFM The Spatial and Temporal Adaptive Reectance Fusion Model (STARFM) (Gao et al., 2006), which produces fused Landsat images with 30-m spatial resolution at MODIS temporal frequency, could be potentially useful to enhance temporal resolution for tillage mapping. However, the coefcients of determination (R2) between actual and STARFM synthetic data were reported to range between 0.00 and 0.99 among different bands for the same location in Watts et al.s (2011) study. Inconsistencies in STARFMs ability to predict surface reectance data among different bands could introduce additional errors. As such, the potential to incorporate STARFM into minNDTI technique to improve our ability to map tillage practices currently remains unknown and research is required for further investigation. Nevertheless, future improvement of data fusion techniques, e.g., the ESTARFM (Zhu et al., 2010), and higher quality of Landsat 8 and the European Space Agency (ESA) Sentinel-2 data could potentially provide data optimized in both temporal and spatial resolutions for tillage assessment.

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5.3. Role of local soils and terrain Zheng et al. (2013a) highlighted the inuences of local soil and terrain upon the NDTI values, and McNairn et al. (2001) also noted that conditions on agricultural elds are so complex, with soil and residue characteristics changing temporally and spatially, that care must be taken in extrapolating results from controlled experiments to operational mapping exercises. Tillage assessment efforts can benet from further examination of such effects, and investigations to apply information from existing soil, terrain, and elevation data to identify where and when such effects might inuence NDTI values, and possibly provide a basis for reducing effects upon NDTI values. 5.4. Local and regional tillage assessment models An empirical model developed based upon local conditions often will not transfer well to other locations, as reported by Zheng et al. (2013a), who found that locally developed models performed better than a universal model. The performance of local models could vary from one location to another, or from year to year, in response to local weather, soil, and terrain conditions. Zheng et al. (2013a) also found that abundant rainfall during the planting season has negative effects on crop residue cover estimation. Thus, a single local model might not be able to predict crop residue cover accurately over time for the region. Field observations may be required to calibrate the model every year to account for the effects of soil variation. Alternatively, local soil-adjusted tillage indices might be able to minimize the effects of soil background. Because the soil-adjusted tillage indices were designed under controlled conditions (Biard and Baret, 1997; Bannari et al., 2000), future efforts can be devoted to test the capability of these indices on satellite data. Galloza et al. (2013) found that ALI data have better capability to discriminate crop residue from soils than Landsat TM data and ascribed the better performance to ALIs pushbroom design and capability to operate without saturation over the full range of albedos with 12 bit dynamic range. Their results indicate that Landsat 8s OLI will have improved capability to estimate crop residue (Galloza et al., 2013). 5.5. Status of current remote sensing systems The recent launch of the Landsat 8 and retirement of Landsat 5 TM continues satellite coverage with two instruments providing NDTI capabilities Landsat 7 (TM7) and Landsat 8 (OLI). These two Landsat instruments are in orbits for 16-day coverage cycles, together providing an 8-day observation cycle. Landsat 8 OLIs spectral channels pairs, OLIs bands 6 (SWIR-1) (15701650 nm) and 7 (SWIR-2) (21102290 nm) and TMs bands 5 (1550 1750 nm) and 7 (20802350 nm), provide compatible spectral channels for purposes of calculation of NDTI. Zheng et al. (2013b) presented and validated the multi-scale segmentation strategy for correcting Landsat 7s SLC-off imagery in a manner that preserves eld-by-eld NDTI integrity, thereby providing the capability for 8-day repeat NDTI observations. At the time of this writing, research has yet to investigate applications of OLI imagery for NDTI, but evidence from analysis of ALI imagery (Galloza et al., 2013) suggests that it should enhance our ability to accurately assess crop residue cover. The 24-day revisit intervals for RADARSAT-2 (and for the now-inoperative Envisat) illustrate the difculties in making a validated algorithm for microwave tillage assessment operational, due to the necessity for multiple observations during planting season. In contrast, the frequent revisit intervals of systems such as TerraSAR-X and the ESAs Sentinel-1 (X- and C-bands, respectively), in combination with

microwaves cloud penetrating capabilities, would greatly increase the opportunities for acquiring sequential imagery. 5.6. The context for operational tillage assessment Operational implementation of systematic tillage assessment requires not only a validated algorithm, and systematic acquisition of imagery, as outlined above, but supporting geospatial data systems, and eld data collection programs. For example, Zheng et al.s (2013b) implementation of broad-scale tillage assessment relied upon the USDA Cropland Data Layer (USDA-NASS, 2013b) to isolate cropland by masking forest, urban, and water from the analysis, and to select corn and soybean cropland for analysis. Although this information could be acquired from other sources, their use illustrates that any broad-scale operational tillage assessment program cannot stand as isolated efforts, but will depend upon supporting data systems, including, conceivably, data from other satellite systems to provide ancillary data to support the robustness of the tillage analysis. Operational implementation of remote sensing systems for tillage assessment would also require systematic eld data collection campaigns on an annual basis to provide: (a) regional calibration data (as discussed by Zheng et al., 2013a,b) for calibration of each years analysis, and (b) validation data for retrospective assessment of place-to-place accuracy of each years survey results. Zheng et al. (2013a) highlighted impacts of local variations in terrain, moisture, and soil color upon effectiveness of the minNDTI technique operational tillage assessment therefore would benet from soil background data to highlight regions where local conditions might reduce effectiveness of minNDTI estimates. With a multi-year record of operational experience, assessment using eld data collection programs might permit estimation of local condence intervals for tillage estimates. Field data collection efforts, using validated survey protocols (Hill, 2013), and coordinated regionally to coincide with local tillage and planting calendars, would best be conducted by state-level efforts such as the CTIC (CTIC, 2013) programs, calling upon state-based USDA-NRCS staff and the knowledgeable local volunteers that have contributed to CTIC successes, or upon comparable institutions in other countries. The ability to monitor tillage practices will be greatly improved in the near future, as more high quality satellite data will be available to us: the ESA Sentinel-2 constellation, a Landsat-type sensor with a 5-day equatorial revisit rate; the planned ESA Environmental Mapping and Analysis Program (EnMAP); and the proposed NASA Hyperspectral Infrared Imager (HyspIRI) with 19day revisit time. These data, together with Landsat 8, will permit the use of multiple sensors to provide frequent observations to capture rapid changes of agricultural lands. Multispectral and hyperspectral data acquired concurrently could be combined to estimate crop residue at the multispectral spatial extent with improved accuracy (Galloza et al., 2013). Future studies will involve multi-sensor multi-date image fusion. Inter-sensor calibration of tillage indices, therefore, will be required. Nonparametric classiers are also attractive when multisource data are utilized in a classication. Combination of optical and radar data could potentially improve mapping accuracies of tillage practices. This review has focused upon conditions prevailing largely in North America, and more specically, the United States Corn Belt, with respect to issues such as crops, crop residue, tillage systems, supporting data systems, terrain, and soils. Therefore, although tillage assessment has signicance through the world, specics of implementation in other regions have yet to be fully investigated. We believe, however, that this review has identied key issues as understood at present as they likely apply to tillage assessment considered broadly.

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