Improved classification of conservation tillage adoption using high temporal and synthetic satellite imagery

TitleImproved classification of conservation tillage adoption using high temporal and synthetic satellite imagery
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsWatts J.
Secondary AuthorsPowell S., Lawrence R., Hilker T.
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
Start Page66
KeywordsLandsat, MODIS, random forest, STARFM, Tillage

Conservation tillage management has been advocated for carbon sequestration and soil quality preservation purposes. Past satellite image analyses have had difficulty in differentiating between no-till (NT) and
minimal tillage (MT) conservation classes due to similarities in surface residues, and may have been restricted by the availability of cloud-free satellite imagery. This study hypothesized that the inclusion of high temporal data into the classification process would increase conservation tillage accuracy due to the added likelihood of capturing spectral changes in MT fields following a tillage disturbance. Classification accuracies were evaluated for Random Forest models based on 250-m and 500-m MODIS, 30-m Landsat, and 30-m synthetic reflectance values. Synthetic (30-m) data derived from the Spatial and Temporal Adaptive Reflectance Fusion Model (STARFM) were evaluated because high frequency Landsat image sets are often unavailable within a cropping season due to cloud issues. Classification results from a five-date Landsat model were substantially better than those reported by previous classification tillage studies, with 94% total and ≥88% class producer's accuracies. Landsat-derived models based on individual image scenes (May through August) yielded poor MT classifications, but a monthly increase in accuracy illustrated the importance of temporal sampling for capturing regional tillage disturbance signatures. MODIS-based model accuracies (90% total; ≥82% class) were lower than in the five-date Landsat model, but were higher than previous image-based and survey-based tillage classification results. Almost all the STARFM prediction-based models had classification accuracies higher than, or comparable to, the MODIS-based results (N90% total; ≥84% class) but the resulting model accuracies were dependent on the MODIS/Landsat base pairs used to generate the STARFM predictions. Also evident within the STARFM prediction-based models was the ability for high frequency data series to compensate for degraded synthetic spectral values when classifying fieldbased tillage. The decision to use MODIS or STARFM-based data within conservation tillage analysis is likely situation dependent. A MODIS-based approach requires little data processing and could be more efficient for large-area mapping; however a STARFM-based analysis might be more appropriate in mixed-pixel situations that could potentially compromise classification accuracy.