Agron. Sustain. Dev.
Volume 28, Number 2, April-June 2008
Page(s) 355 - 362
Published online 30 November 2007
Agron. Sustain. Dev. 28 (2008) 355-362
DOI: 10.1051/agro:2007049

Discriminating cropping systems and agro-environmental measures by remote sensing

José Manuel Peña-Barragán1, Francisca López-Granados1, Luis García-Torres1, Montserrat Jurado-Expósito1, Manuel Sánchez de la Orden2 and Alfonso García-Ferrer2

1  Institute for Sustainable Agriculture, CSIC, PO Box 4084, 14080 Córdoba, Spain
2  Remote Sensing Department, University of Córdoba, PO Box 3048, 14080 Córdoba, Spain

Accepted 20 September 2007 ; published online 30 November 2007

Abstract - The agrarian policy of the European Union tends to support sustainable agriculture, subsidising only cropping systems that are implemented with specific agro-environmental measures. These actions require a precise follow-up of the crops and of the agricultural practices over a large surface. To that end, remote-sensing techniques are unique and cost-effective. We developed here a digital land cover classification in the Mediterranean dryland, mapping and assessing the main cropping systems and some agro-environmental measures such as cover crops in olive orchards and crop stubble for reducing soil erosion. We analysed a high spatial resolution satellite image (QuickBird) taken in early summer around Montilla, southern Spain. Images of the four broad wavebands, six band ratios and three vegetation indices were extracted from the satellite image and studied for the discrimination of nine land covers. The classified regions were determined by applying adequate boundary digital values to the selected images. Our results show that the land covers were discriminated with an overall accuracy of about 90%. Images of the normalised difference vegetation index and the ratio vegetation index discriminated between vegetation and non-vegetation zones. The visible wavebands discriminated roadside trees and herbaceous crops, and the near-infrared waveband highways and urban soil plus bare soil. The ratios blue/green and red/green were useful for distinguishing non-burnt stubble. The burnt stubble area was discriminated through the adapted burnt area index. Olive orchards were classified once the regions of vegetation, non-vegetation and non-burnt stubble were extracted. This technology will be a useful tool of agroecology control for the administration and will be a substitute for the current follow-up of cropping systems by ground visits. It can also be used on a farm level in order to help farmers and technicians to make decisions about the management of sustainable agricultural practices.

Key words: burnt stubble / bare soil / cover crops / crop stubble / land cover classification / no-tillage / olive orchards / QuickBird

Corresponding author:

© INRA, EDP Sciences 2008