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The recent U.S. Geological Survey policy offering Landsat satellite data at no cost provides researchers new opportunities to explore relationships between environment and health.

The purpose of this study was to examine the potential for using Landsat satellite data to support pesticide exposure assessment in California.Methods and ResultsWe collected a dense time series of 24 Landsat 5 and 7 images spanning the year 2000 for an agricultural region in Fresno County. We intersected the Landsat time series with the California Department of Water Resources (CDWR) land use map and selected field samples to define the phenological characteristics of 17 major crop types or crop groups.

We found the frequent overpass of Landsat enabled detection of crop field conditions (e.g ., bare soil, vegetated) over most of the year. However, images were limited during the winter months due to cloud cover.

Many samples designated as single-cropped in the CDWR map had phenological patterns that represented multi-cropped or non-cropped fields, indicating they may have been misclassified.

Conclusions: We found the combination of Landsat 5 and 7 image data would clearly benefit pesticide exposure assessment in this region by 1) providing information on crop field conditions at or near the time when pesticides are applied, and 2) providing information for validating the CDWR map. The Landsat image time-series was useful for identifying idle, single-, and multi-cropped fields.

Landsat data will be limited during the winter months due to cloud cover, and for years prior to the Landsat 7 launch (1999) when only one satellite was operational at any given time. We suggest additional research to determine the feasibility of integrating CDWR land use maps and Landsat data to derive crop maps in locations and time periods where maps are not available, which will allow for substantial improvements to chemical exposure estimation.

Author: Susan MaxwellMatthew AirolaJohn Nuckols
Credits/Source: International Journal of Health Geographics 2010, 9:46


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