Sentinel-1 SAR Backscatter Response to Agricultural Drought in The Netherlands

Maurice Shorachi, V. Kumar*, S.C. Steele-Dunne

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Drought is a major natural hazard that impacts agriculture, the environment, and socio-economic conditions. In 2018 and 2019, Europe experienced a severe drought due to below average precipitation and high temperatures. Drought stress affects the moisture content and structure of agricultural crops and can result in lower yields. Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) observations are sensitive to the dielectric and geometric characteristics of crops and underlying soils. This study uses data from ESA’s Sentinel-1 SAR satellite to investigate the influence of drought stress on major arable crops of the Netherlands, its regional variability and the impact of water management decisions on crop development. Sentinel-1 VV, VH and VH/VV backscatter data are used to quantify the variability in the spatio-temporal dynamics of agricultural crop parcels in response to drought. Results show that VV and VH backscatter values are 1 to 2 dB lower for crop parcels during the 2018 drought compared to values in 2017. In addition, the growth season indicated by the cross-ratio (CR, VH/VV) for maize and onion is shorter during the drought year. Differences due to irrigation restrictions are observed in backscatter response from maize parcels. Lower CR values in 2019 indicate the impact of drought on the start of the growing season. Results demonstrate that Sentinel-1 can detect changes in the seasonal cycle of arable crops in response to agricultural drought.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2435
Number of pages19
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • agriculture
  • crops
  • cross-ratio
  • drought
  • Sentinel-1
  • Synthetic Aperture Radar
  • irrigation


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