Irrigated area mapping in heterogeneous landscapes with MODIS time series, ground truth and census data, Krishna Basin, India

T. W. Biggs, P. S. Thenkabail, M. K. Gumma, C. A. Scott, G. R. Parthasaradhi, H. N. Turral

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

136 Scopus citations


Diverse irrigated areas were mapped in the Krishna River Basin (258,912 km2), southern India, using an irrigated fraction approach and multiple ancillary data sources. Unsupervised classification of a monthly time series of net difference vegetation index (NDVI) images from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MODIS) over January-December 2002 generated 40 classes. Nine generalized classes included five irrigated classes with distinct NDVI time signatures: continuous irrigation, double-cropped, irrigated with low biomass, minor irrigation, and groundwater irrigation. Areas irrigated by surface water began greening 45 days after groundwater-irrigated areas, which allowed separation of surface and groundwater irrigation in the classification. The fraction of each class area irrigated was determined using three different methods: ground truth data, a linear regression model calibrated to agricultural census data, and visual interpretation of Landsat TM imagery. Irrigated fractions determined by the three methods varied least for the double-cropped irrigated class (0.62-0.79) and rangeland (0.00-0.02), and most for the minor irrigated class (0.06-0.43). Small irrigated patches (<0.1 km2) accounted for more irrigated area than all major surface water irrigated areas combined. The irrigated fractions of the minor and groundwater-irrigated classes differed widely by method, suggesting that mapping patchy and small irrigated areas remains challenging, but comparison of multiple data sources improves confidence in the classification and highlights areas requiring more intensive fieldwork.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4245-4266
Number of pages22
JournalInternational Journal of Remote Sensing
Issue number19
StatePublished - Oct 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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