Soil brightness satellite maps

Understand how satellite technology can help you determine soil variability.

Back to: Precision agriculture for soils

Soil brightness

Soil brightness is a measure of how intensively the surface layer of bare soil reflects incoming sunlight and is affected by factors such as soil moisture, organic matter content and texture.

Soil brightness maps are derived from optical satellite imagery and are usually cheaper than soil electrical conductivity or electromagnetic imaging surveys, as the satellite images are collected remotely.

How satellite maps work

Maps are obtained by analysing single satellite images, with the resulting brightness bandings standardised across the holding.

Since values obtained are relative rather than absolute, it is not appropriate to compare results between farms, or from images captured on different dates, since soil moisture and other temporally and spatially variable conditions will impact on soil reflectance.

Bare soil

In order to assess soil brightness, the satellite image has to be of bare soil. Consequently, measurements are typically taken before crop establishment.

Each image will show a slightly different colour range, based on the method of cultivation, time of data acquisition, soil moisture and stubble interference.

Soil brightness maps can be used to help identify boundaries between soil types or conditions which, on further analysis, may justify different management regimes.

Image of staff member Alice Sin

Alice Sin

Environment Scientist

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