Evaluation of Terrestrial Laser Scanner and Structure from Motion photogrammetry techniques for quantifying soil surface roughness parameters over agricultural soils

Martinez‐Agirre, Alex; Álvarez‐Mozos, Jesús; Milenković, Milutin; Pfeifer, Norbert; Giménez, Rafael; Valle, José Manuel; Rodríguez, Álvaro


The surface roughness of agricultural soils is mainly related to the type of tillage performed, typically consisting of oriented and random components. Traditionally, soil surface roughness (SSR) characterization has been difficult due to its high spatial variability and the sensitivity of roughness parameters to the characteristics of the instruments, including its measurement scale. Recent advances in surveying have greatly improved the spatial resolution, extent, and availability of surface elevation datasets. However, it is still unknown how new roughness measurements relates with the conventional roughness measurements such as 2D profiles acquired by laser profilometers. The objective of this study was to evaluate the suitability of Terrestrial Laser Scanner (TLS) and Structure from Motion (SfM) photogrammetry techniques for quantifying SSR over different agricultural soils. With this aim, an experiment was carried out in three plots (5 × 5 m) representing different roughness conditions, where TLS and SfM photogrammetry measurements were co‐registered with 2D profiles obtained using a laser profilometer. Differences between new and conventional roughness measurement techniques were evaluated visually and quantitatively using regression analysis and comparing the values of six different roughness parameters. TLS and SfM photogrammetry measurements were further compared by evaluating multi‐directional roughness parameters and analyzing corresponding Digital Elevation Models. The results obtained demonstrate the ability of both TLS and SfM photogrammetry techniques to measure 3D SSR over agricultural soils. However, profiles obtained with both techniques (especially SfM photogrammetry) showed a loss of high‐frequency elevation information that affected the values of some parameters (e.g. initial slope of the autocorrelation function, peak frequency and tortuosity). Nevertheless, both TLS and SfM photogrammetry provide a massive amount of 3D information that enables a detailed analysis of surface roughness, which is relevant for multiple applications, such as those focused in hydrological and soil erosion processes and microwave scattering.