It was recognized in the 1960's that measuring the spectral, spatial and temporal variation of electromagnetic fields reflected and emitted from the Earth's surface had many potential applications in the field of agriculture. As a result, computer-implemented pattern recognition techniques were used to analyze multispectral data for the purpose of delineating soil differences. Spectral data were obtained (1) in the laboratory by scanning soil samples with a double-beam spectrophotometer (Beckman DK-2A) and (2) in the field by scanning large areas of soils with an airborne multispectral scanner.

The results obtained through this early research clearly illustrated relationships between the reflected and emitted energy from soils and other physical and chemical properties of those soils. The possibility of sampling large geographic areas and obtaining information about various soil parameters within a relatively short time period appeared to be of great value to potential users, i.e. soil surveyors, soil conservationists and other resource management personnel.

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