By Rob Maas (the Netherlands)
Dates play a key role in the diet of Middle-Eastern and North African countries, as they are one of the few sources of vitamins and minerals that can be cultivated in the arid climate. Modernization of the date sector is needed to cope with the growing demand and the challenges they face, such as water scarcity, salinization and pest control. The aim of this study is to aid the date farmers by exploring a new monitoring tool: satellite remote sensing. Three time series analyses were performed on Landsat 7 NDVI signals to investigate two farms, a modern ’model’ and a traditional ’standard’ farm. Firstly, eight years of NDVI signals from different fields were investigated to determine if the different cultivars and ages result in different signals. Also the sensitivity of the signals to precipitation and temperature was investigated. Secondly, the average seasonal pattern of each field was calculated to find correlations with farm operations, such as weeding and harvesting. Thirdly, the heterogeneity within each field was investigated to identify fields with large vegetation differences that can indicate harmful external influences. Potential applications of the outcomes of these analyses were visualized in maps that are easy to understand and can be used by farmers that do not have any specific knowledge about time series, to show the potential of satellite remote sensing for date cultivation.