Vegetation Monitoring: Satellite Imagery and Data

Vegetation Monitoring

Satellite imagery is the most important source of information for agriculture. This article will look at the benefits of using Vegetation Monitoring or such data and the underlying technologies.

Vegetation Monitoring Advantages

With the help of vegetation monitoring, scientists determine the impact of human activities, climate, and environmental changes on the plants’ growth and condition in different regions. Such mapping is vital for studying the carbon cycle because photosynthesis removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and stores it in soil and wood. Also, farmers can use satellite data for early season crop monitoring, which helps to correct problems promptly and improve crop quality.

Virtual maps display vegetation as an index (or scale) of greenness. It depends on the type, quantity, and health of the plants. For example, Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the board of NASA’s Terra satellite depicts areas with dense foliage and fast-growing plants in dark green. Places with the opposite situation are yellow-brown. Such satellite data, in particular, clearly demonstrate the pattern: in equatorial regions with high temperatures and abundant rainfall and sunshine, green vegetation persists throughout the year. The farther from it, the stronger the seasons’ influence.


Some indexes may perceive bare soil during the germination stage as poor vegetation. The modified soil adjusted vegetation index (MSAVI) is helpful for such cases. It considers the bare soil’s amount (usually shown in red) and interprets seed and plant health more accurately.

MSAVI is suitable for other purposes as well. Thus, it demonstrates uneven seed germination, allowing you to identify problem areas and re-sow them on time. Modern software allows determining the correlation between the index and temperature fluctuations to protect plants from cold and heat stress. Also, farmers can specify the height difference’s influence on growing plants. It is handy for farmers who work in a new field and do not yet understand its features.

Lack of water or even excessive abundance adversely affects young shoots. With the help of rainfall history graphs and MSAVI, it is possible to specify whether rainfall damages planted crops. Another advantage of the index is fieldwork monitoring. This way, you will identify the causes of poor crop health early and correct the situation. If crops need fertilizer, use the vegetation map based on MSAVI data to select the best options according to the year’s time.

Plants such as corn or sunflower appear wilted in their last stage of maturity, which can be misleading for some indexes other than MSAVI. Thus, this index is an excellent tool for monitoring yields in both the early and late stages of maturation.


The Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) is one of the most manageable and popular vegetation indices. It is suitable for various fields: from precision farming to protecting the ecosystem. The index shows the plant’s health to identify risk areas and take the necessary measures promptly. In the long term, NDVI data make it possible to define weather and climate patterns in the region to adapt the economy to them. Moreover, with the help of NDVI, farmers minimize the potential environmental damage from their activities.

NDVI is based on the plants’ ability to reflect ranges of the electromagnetic spectrum. Healthy cultures with good cell structure and plenty of chlorophyll absorb red light and reflect near-infrared light. Satellites analyze these wavelengths and determine their current state. At the same time, the results depend on the characteristics of a particular satellite: devices have different wavelength definitions. Also, it is necessary to consider calibration errors, the speed of the orbit, the influence of the atmosphere, etc.

Global Vegetation and Carbon Emissions

Recent studies have shown that almost a quarter of the world’s vegetation is underground. Together they contain a massive amount of carbon, about 113 gigatons. Such stocks can play an essential role in combating climate change. Also, with this data, scientists can predict how carbon will be released or retained during this process. In particular, research results show that in cold and arid regions, the amount of carbon is more significant, especially in the area of the Mongolian plateau. And we can also determine the type of future vegetation in a particular place. It became known that among 22% of underground biomass, future pastures account for the most part (about 67%), the number of shrubs is about 47%. 

At the same time, we note that a more detailed study of a single region is possible only on the spot; it is practically impossible to conduct it remotely at the global level, as in traditional field studies. Therefore, the enterprises should have the appropriate equipment and technologies to assess their underground carbon stocks.

Thus, satellite data allows solving significant agricultural problems, including global ones. In particular, the local enterprises’ technical condition makes it possible to assess the extent of carbon release and retention of carbon dioxide during the germination of plants currently stored in the ground.


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