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Posted on June 3rd, 2014

Our Changing Landscape – Netherlands Tulip Harvest

In this monthly feature, we span the globe to examine Our Changing Landscape with time series of medium resolution RapidEye satellite imagery. The RapidEye archive dates back to late 2008 and already contains more than 5 billion square kilometers of data. This month, we look at the harvest of tulips in Den Burg, Netherlands.

The RapidEye Constellation

RapidEye is a constellation of five 5-meter medium resolution satellites each offering five spectral bands of information. The RapidEye constellation offers daily revisits to every location on the planet with a huge footprint that is 77-km wide. The data is priced competitively with a starting cost of $1.28 per square kilometer for all five spectral bands – academics do receive discounts. RapidEye adds a fifth band, the red edge, to the ‘traditional’ multispectral set of blue, green, red and near-infrared (NIR). The additional spectral data in the red edge band allows users to extract more useful land ‘information’ than can be from traditional 4-band imagery sources. When RapidEye imagery is ordered as a Level 3A Orthorectified product, images from multiple dates are extremely well registered, making it the ideal data source for Our Changing Landscape.

Netherlands Tulip Harvest – Den Burg

Click on the image above to see an animation of 5-meter natural color imagery collected over Den Burg, Netherlands on March 23, 2011, May 1, 2011 and October 15, 2011. In this animated series, you can see significant changes in the ground cover of many of these fields. (Images Courtesy: RapidEye)

A tulip is a flowering perennial plant (meaning it lives for two or more years) that grows from bulbs. The term is used to broadly describe about 100 plant species belonging to the Liliaceae family, however few are found outside of gardens and greenhouses. Tulips are native to the Mediterranean climate found in Europe, northern Africa and the Middle East, with some species extending through the mountains of Iran to northwest China. Tulip flowers have three petals and three sepals and come in a wide variety of colors.

Tulips grow the best in well drained soils and in areas with long, cool springs and then dry summers. In order to be grown from a bulb, tulips require a period of cool weather, called vernalization, as such they are often planted in late-summer to early-fall. Bulbs are planted from 2 to 8 inches deep in soil; the deeper they are, the longer the stem is when they are harvested. When grown from a bulb or a tissue culture, tulips will maintain their genetic integrity (i.e. they will look the same as their parents); and when grown from seeds, new hybrid species are created which look different from their parents.

The Netherlands is the world leader in tulip production, growing an estimated 4.3 billion bulbs each year, of which 2.3 billion are made into cut flowers. Approximately 40% of these cut flowers are exported outside Holland, with the majority staying in Europe. The Netherlands is an ideal climate for growing tulips with its long, cool springs and moist, well-drained soils. The peak season for tulip blossoms is from mid-March to the end of May. Tulip farms in the Netherlands cover about 11,000 hectares and are mechanically harvested given the sheer volume of fields that are planted. The Netherlands accounts for nearly 90% of the world’s total area of tulip farms planted each year!

If you would like to find out more about using RapidEye for your academic studies, engineering projects or any landscape analysis, let us know at or (303) 993-3863.

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