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Active microwave measurements of vegetation backscatter were conducted to determine the utility of radar in 1) mapping soil moisture through vegetation and 2) mapping crop types. Using a truck-mounted boom, spectral response data were obtained for four crop types (corn, milo, soybeans, and alfalfa) over the 4-8 GHz frequency band, at incidence angles of in steps, and for all four linear polarization combinations. Based on a total of 125 data sets covering a wide range of soil moisture content, system design criteria are proposed for each of the aforementioned objectives. Quantitative soil moisture determination was best achieved at the lower frequency end of the 4-8 GHz band using HH polarized waves in the incidence angle range. A combination of low and high frequency measurements are suggested for classifying crop types. For crop discrimination, a dual-frequency dual-polarization (VV and cross) system operating at incidence angles above is suggested.