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Assesses the feasibility of retrieving soil moisture content over smooth bare-soil fields using European Remote Sensing synthetic aperture radar (ERS-SAR) data. The roughness conditions considered in this study correspond to those observed in agricultural fields at the time of sowing. Within this context, the retrieval possibilities of a single-parameter ERS-SAR configuration is assessed using appropriately trained neural networks. Three sources of error affecting soil moisture retrieval (inversion, measurement, and model errors) are identified, and their relative influence on retrieval performance is assessed using synthetic datasets as well as a large pan-European database of ground and ERS-1 and ERS-2 measurements. The results from this study indicate that no more than two soil moisture classes can reliably be distinguished using the ERS configuration, even for the restricted roughness range considered.