Exploring the use of synthetic aperture radar data for irrigation management in super high-density olive orchards

Marcel M. El Hajj*, Samer K. Almashharawi, Kasper Johansen, Jamal Elfarkh, Matthew F. McCabe

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Understanding the plant water-uptake dynamics and behavior in olive orchards is an area of much interest, particularly for efforts to optimize the use and application of water resources. However, plant water-uptake information is rarely available or consistently monitored for large agricultural areas, especially in developing countries. Here we evaluate the potential of using synthetic aperture radar (SAR) images to monitor the water-uptake rate in super high-density olive orchards located in the hot and arid desert climate of Saudi Arabia. The experiment was performed using Sentinel-1 data acquired between 2019 and 2020 in concert with in situ sap flow measurements. To date, no study has explored the potential of Sentinel-1 SAR data to assess the water-uptake rate in olive orchards. The results demonstrate that the SAR backscatter increased between January and July/August, and then decreased during the remainder of the year, following a broadly Gaussian distribution. Of key interest is the strength of the relationship between the increasing and decreasing trends of SAR backscatter and the variation in the coincident water-uptake rate measured in situ, producing a coefficient of determination of 0.81 in the VV polarization. As the relationship between the SAR backscatter and water-uptake rate was established for plots with similar tree type and planting density, further exploration of orchards with different characteristics and planting densities is needed to fully understand the potential of SAR data to estimate plant water-uptake. Overall, the study demonstrates that SAR data can track variation in locally measured water-uptake and illustrates the potential to assist with enhancing irrigation management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102878
JournalInternational Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation
StatePublished - Aug 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Research reported in this publication was supported by the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022


  • C-band
  • Irrigation management
  • Olive orchards
  • SAR
  • Water-uptake rate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Computers in Earth Sciences
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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