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Nitrogen and water effects on canopy sensor measurements for site-specific management of crops

Nicholas C Ward, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Water and nitrogen (N) are undoubtedly the two largest agricultural inputs globally. Coupled with advances in site-specific management technology their integration into production agriculture will allow for the most efficient use these crop input resources. Active canopy sensors offer the ability to measure biophysical plant traits rapidly and make assessments about plant status. Specifically, optical sensor measurements of light reflectance assess plant N status allowing for in-season and on-the-go N recommendations and applications; while infrared thermometers (IRT) measurement of canopy temperature can be used a tool for irrigation management. To evaluate how these technologies work among different plant stress environments a series of experiments were formulated. The first experiment compared reference strategies for normalizing reflectance data across multiple vegetation indices (VI). We found the virtual reference concept helped reduce variation of the calculated reference and placed sufficiency index values in a range that corresponded to plant N status. Additionally, VI varied in their ability to show significant responses to applied N fertilizer. In the second experiment, we sought to understand the influence of VI on how an in-season N application algorithm performs as well as the confounding effects of irrigation might have. We found N application rates would change based on algorithm and VI. Also, N rate can be affected by apparent water stress. In this case, reduced reflectance in the NIR spectrum reduced leaf area from leaf rolling. The final objective was to quantify the effect of N fertility on plant canopy temperature and determine if functions of canopy temperature could be useful for detecting apparent N stress. We concluded that plant canopy temperature can be affected by N stresses and that canopy temperature and canopy/air temperature difference provided equal sensitivity to plant stress. Therefore, these technologies will be vital to help conserve resources and maximize efficiency in production agriculture.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Ward, Nicholas C, "Nitrogen and water effects on canopy sensor measurements for site-specific management of crops" (2015). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3718111.