Hal D. Werner

Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School

Agricultural Engineering


During the 1970 growing season, research was conducted to investigate the relationship between remote sensing imagery and soil moisture. Extensive aerial and ground truth data were collected and studied in order to evaluate the moisture supply and water use. The three hectare study site, located on the South Dakota State University James Valley Research and Extension Center, contained irrigated and non-irrigated sorghum and two fallow treatments. Results indicate that remote sensing is a feasible method for monitoring available soil moisture. Thirteen aerial missions were conducted between June 17 and October 5 at altitudes between 305 meters (1,000 feet) above ground level and 1525 meters (5,000 feet) above ground level. Photography was collected each flight with color reversal infrared film and three black and white films filtered for the green, red, and near infrared bands of the spectrum. A thermal infrared scanner and a precision radiation thermometer recorded earth-emitted radiation and temperature anomalies. Solameters measured both incoming and outgoing radiation. Imagery analyses were performed by three methods: 1. visual interpretation, 2. Use of a closed circuit television color encoding system specifically designed for imagery interpretation and overall film density analysis, and 3. Film density measurements. Film densities were corrected to account for seasonal changes in incoming radiation, amount of plant canopy, and reflectances of the crop and soil. Final analysis was accomplished by correlation of the soil moisture data with the film densities and corrected film densities. The results revealed that the soil-plant system viewed by the sensors provided information on the different soil moisture, the crop related the available moisture conditions of the soil profile. Of the three reflected the available moisture conditions of the soil profile. Of the three reflected radiation bands, the red band provided the best results for determination of soil moisture; the green band gave reasonable results throughout most of the season; and near infrared photography did not provide helpful indications of available soil moisture.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Remote sensing

Soil moisture



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University