Real-time monitoring of crop phenology is critical for assisting farmers managing crop growth and yield estimation. In this study, we presented an approach to monitor in real time crop phenology using timely available daily Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) observations and historical Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) datasets in the Midwestern United States. MODIS data at a spatial resolution of 500 m from 2003 to 2012 were used to generate the climatology of vegetation phenology. By integrating climatological phenology and timely available VIIRS observations in 2014 and 2015, a set of temporal trajectories of crop growth development at a given time for each pixel were then simulated using a logistic model. The simulated temporal trajectories were used to identify spring green leaf development and predict the occurrences of greenup onset, mid-greenup phase, and maximum greenness onset using curvature change rate. Finally, the accuracy of real-time monitoring from VIIRS observations was evaluated by comparing with summary crop progress (CP) reports of ground observations from the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The results suggest that real-time monitoring of crop phenology from VIIRS observations is a robust tool in tracing the crop progress across regional areas. In particular, the date of mid-greenup phase from VIIRS was significantly correlated to the planting dates reported in NASS CP for both corn and soybean with a consistent lag of 37 days and 27 days on average (p
< 0.01), as well as the emergence dates in CP with a lag of 24 days and 16 days on average (p
< 0.01), respectively. The real-time monitoring of maximum greenness onset from VIIRS was able to predict the corn silking dates with an advance of 9 days (p
< 0.01) and the soybean blooming dates with a lag of 7 days on average (p
< 0.01). These findings demonstrate the capability of VIIRS observations to effectively monitor temporal dynamics of crop progress in real time at a regional scale.
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