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Remote Sens. 2010, 2(9), 2274-2304; doi:10.3390/rs2092274

Remote Sensing of Irrigated Agriculture: Opportunities and Challenges

Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment (SAGE), University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1710 University Avenue, Madison, WI 53726, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 29 July 2010 / Revised: 15 September 2010 / Accepted: 25 September 2010 / Published: 27 September 2010
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Global Croplands)
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Over the last several decades, remote sensing has emerged as an effective tool to monitor irrigated lands over a variety of climatic conditions and locations. The objective of this review, which summarizes the methods and the results of existing remote sensing studies, is to synthesize principle findings and assess the state of the art. We take a taxonomic approach to group studies based on location, scale, inputs, and methods, in an effort to categorize different approaches within a logical framework. We seek to evaluate the ability of remote sensing to provide synoptic and timely coverage of irrigated lands in several spectral regions. We also investigate the value of archived data that enable comparison of images through time. This overview of the studies to date indicates that remote sensing-based monitoring of irrigation is at an intermediate stage of development at local scales. For instance, there is overwhelming consensus on the efficacy of vegetation indices in identifying irrigated fields. Also, single date imagery, acquired at peak growing season, may suffice to identify irrigated lands, although to multi-date image data are necessary for improved classification and to distinguish different crop types. At local scales, the mapping of irrigated lands with remote sensing is also strongly affected by the timing of image acquisition and the number of images used. At the regional and global scales, on the other hand, remote sensing has not been fully operational, as methods that work in one place and time are not necessarily transferable to other locations and periods. Thus, at larger scales, more work is required to indentify the best spectral indices, best time periods, and best classification methods under different climatological and cultural environments. Existing studies at regional scales also establish the fact that both remote sensing and national statistical approaches require further refinement with a substantial investment of time and resources for ground-truthing. An additional challenge in mapping irrigation across large areas occurs in fragmented landscapes with small irrigated and cultivated fields, where the spatial scale of observations is pitted against the need for high frequency temporal acquisitions. Finally, this review identifies passive and active microwave observations, advanced image classification methods, and data fusion including optical and radar sensors or with information from sources with multiple spatial and temporal characteristics as key areas where additional research is needed.
Keywords: irrigation; agriculture; remote sensing; image classification; resolution irrigation; agriculture; remote sensing; image classification; resolution
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Ozdogan, M.; Yang, Y.; Allez, G.; Cervantes, C. Remote Sensing of Irrigated Agriculture: Opportunities and Challenges. Remote Sens. 2010, 2, 2274-2304.

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