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Sensors (Basel). 2010;10(10):8899-919. doi: 10.3390/s101008899. Epub 2010 Sep 28.

Multitemporal observations of sugarcane by TerraSAR-X images.

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CEMAGREF, UMR TETIS, 500 rue François Breton, 34093 Montpellier cedex 5, France.


The objective of this study is to investigate the potential of TerraSAR-X (X-band) in monitoring sugarcane growth on Reunion Island (located in the Indian Ocean). Multi-temporal TerraSAR data acquired at various incidence angles (17°, 31°, 37°, 47°, 58°) and polarizations (HH, HV, VV) were analyzed in order to study the behaviour of SAR (synthetic aperture radar) signal as a function of sugarcane height and NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index). The potential of TerraSAR for mapping the sugarcane harvest was also studied. Radar signal increased quickly with crop height until a threshold height, which depended on polarization and incidence angle. Beyond this threshold, the signal increased only slightly, remained constant, or even decreased. The threshold height is slightly higher with cross polarization and higher incidence angles (47° in comparison with 17° and 31°). Results also showed that the co-polarizations channels (HH and VV) were well correlated. High correlation between SAR signal and NDVI calculated from SPOT-4/5 images was observed. TerraSAR data showed that after strong rains the soil contribution to the backscattering of sugarcane fields can be important for canes with heights of terminal visible dewlap (htvd) less than 50 cm (total cane heights around 155 cm). This increase in radar signal after strong rains could involve an ambiguity between young and mature canes. Indeed, the radar signal on TerraSAR images acquired in wet soil conditions could be of the same order for fields recently harvested and mature sugarcane fields, making difficult the detection of cuts. Finally, TerraSAR data at high spatial resolution were shown to be useful for monitoring sugarcane harvest when the fields are of small size or when the cut is spread out in time. The comparison between incidence angles of 17°, 37° and 58° shows that 37° is more suitable to monitor the sugarcane harvest. The cut is easily detectable on TerraSAR images for data acquired less than two or three months after the cut. The radar signal decreases about 5dB for images acquired some days after the cut and 3 dB for data acquired two month after the cut (VV-37°). The difference in radar signal becomes negligible (<1 dB) between harvested fields and mature canes for sugarcane harvested since three months or more.


NDVI; Reunion Island; SAR; TerraSAR-X; sugarcane

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