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Attempts to Use Satellite Data to Detect Vegetative Damage and Alteration Caused by Air and Soil Pollutants. E. L. Fritz, Graduate Assistant, Department of Plant Pathology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park 16802; S. P. Pennypacker, Assistant Professor, Department of Plant Pathology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park 16802. Phytopathology 65:1056-1060. Accepted for publication 14 April 1975. DOI: 10.1094/Phyto-65-1056.

Data collected by a multispectral scanner on board the Earth Resources Technology Satellite was subjected to computer analysis in an attempt to detect vegetative damage primarily attributed to the atmospheric pollutant sulfur dioxide and the soil pollutant zinc emitted from a zinc smelter. Field observations and data collected by low-flying aircraft were used to verify the accuracy of the maps produced from the satellite data. An eastern white pine stand that was severely damaged by sulfur dioxide could not be differentiated from a healthy eastern white pine stand because spectral differences were not large enough. The damage was still undetectable when winter data were used to eliminate interference from herbacious and deciduous vegetation. However, the analysis did produce a character map that accurately delineated areas of vegetative alteration due to excessive zinc levels in the soil. The map depicted a distinct gradient of less damage and alteration as the distance from the smelter increased. The ERTS-1 system would be useful only on infrequent occasions when large areas of damage occur and the damage is severe enough to cause a high contrast between damaged and healthy vegetation. Even in such cases the resolution of the system would not allow an adequate evaluation of the amount of damage to the plants.

Additional keywords: remote sensing, air pollution, disease detection.