U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


Document Type


Date of this Version



Journal of Soil and Water Conservation (2016) 71 (5), pp. 385-395. doi:10.2489/jswc.71.5.385


U.S. government work.


Quantifying crop residue cover is crucial for identifying tillage intensity and evaluating effectiveness of conservation management practices across large geographic areas. Current assessment protocols are labor intensive, time consuming, and costly. Our objective was to assess crop residue cover and soil tillage intensity in a watershed in central Iowa for three years (2009 to 2011) using multispectral satellite images. The watershed is dominated by corn (Zea mays L.) and soybean (Glycine max [L.] Merr.), which are grown on glacial-till derived soils across 85% of the land area. For each year, crop residue cover was measured for a few fields using the line-point transect method or visually estimating surface cover through roadside surveys. Conservation tillage fields had ≥30% residue cover, while more intensively tilled fields had