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Assessing fruit-tree crop classification from Landsat-8 time series for the Maipo Valley, Chile

Peña, M.A., Brenning, A.
Remote sensing of environment 2015 v.171 pp. 234-244
Landsat, agricultural land, crops, discriminant analysis, growing season, normalized difference vegetation index, phenology, remote sensing, spectral analysis, support vector machines, time series analysis, vegetation, Chile
Satellite image time series (SITS) provide spectral–temporal features that describe phenological changes in vegetation over the growing season, which is expected to facilitate the classification of crop types. While most SITS-based crop type classifications were focused on NDVI (normalized difference vegetation index) temporal profiles, less attention has been paid to using the complete image spectral resolution of the time series. In this work we assessed different approaches to SITS-based classification of four major fruit-tree crops in the Maipo Valley, central Chile, during the 2013–14 growing season. We compared four feature sets from a time series comprised of eight cloud-free Landsat-8 images: the full-band SITS, the NDVI and NDWI (normalized difference water index) temporal profiles, and an image stack with all the feature sets combined. State-of-the-art classifiers (linear discriminant analysis, LDA; random forest; and support vector machine) were applied on each feature set at different training sample sizes (N=100, 200, 400, 800 and 2291 fields), and classification results were assessed by cross-validation of the misclassification error rate (MER). For all the feature sets overall results were good (MERs≤0.21) although substantially improved classification accuracies were achieved when the full-band SITS was employed (MER 0.14–0.05). Classifications applied on the NDVI temporal profile consistently had the worst performance. For a sample size of 200 fields, LDA using the full-band SITS of image dates 1, 3, 6 and 8 produced the best tradeoff between the number of images and classification accuracy (MER=0.06), being the green, red, blue and SWIR (short-wave infrared) bands of image date 1 (acquired at the early greenup stage) the most relevant for crop type discrimination. Our results show the importance of considering the complete image spectral resolution for SITS-based crop type classifications as the commonly used NDVI temporal profile and their red and near infrared bands were not found the most significant to discriminate the crop types of interest. Furthermore, in light of the good results obtained, the methodology used here might be transferred to similar agricultural lands cultivated with the same crop types, thus providing a reliable and relatively efficient methodology for creating and updating crop inventories.