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Posted on April 2nd, 2013

Our Changing Landscape – French Lavender Fields

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 4 billion square kilometers of data. This month, we look the bloom of lavender fields in the French province, Alpes de Haute.

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 a daily revisit time to every location on the planet with a huge footprint that is 77-km wide. The data is priced competitively with a base price 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 available 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.

French Lavender Fields – Alpes de Haute Provence

Click on the image above to see an animation of 5-meter natural color imagery over rural Thoard, France from May 29, July 28, August 13 and September 5, 2009. (Images Courtesy: RapidEye)

What we commonly call lavender is actually a collection of 39 plant species that are part of the Lavandula genus. Lavender flowers range in color from white to pink to purple, and the common French species are a brilliant purple. Oil produced from lavender flowers has been used by humans for at least 2,500 years for cooking and bathing as well as in medicine and scented products. While exact figures for lavender harvests are hard to find, according to French government estimates (i.e. ONIPPAM), France accounts for more than 60% of global production. Within France, the Alpes de Haute Provence has the largest number of cultivated lavender fields covering more than 10,000 hectares or 30% of the national total.

French lavender fields are typically planted as cuttings from a mother stem in the Spring. A lavender plant takes three years to reach its full size. The flowers are ready to harvest when they are the most bright and vivid in color which makes them an excellent target for this Our Changing Landscape. Lavender flowers are best cut in the cool of the morning once the dew has dried. In the Alpes de Haute, June to late August is harvest time, with the exact date influenced by relative humidity, longitude and altitude. In the area around Thoard, France, which is where this series of RapidEye images comes from, August 15th is a common harvest date.

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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