Nitrogen status assessment for variable rate fertilization in maize through hyperspectral imagery


This paper presents a method for mapping the nitrogen (N) status in a maize field using hyperspectral remote sensing imagery. An airborne survey was conducted with an AISA Eagle hyperspectral sensor over an experimental farm where maize (Zea mays L.) was grown with two N fertilization levels (0 and 100 kg N ha-1) in four replicates. Leaf and canopy field data were collected during the flight. The nitrogen (N) status has been estimated in this work based on the Nitrogen Nutrition Index (NNI), defined as the ratio between the leaf actual N concentration (%Na) of the crop and the minimum N content required for the maximum biomass production (critical N concentration (%Nc)) calculated through the dry mass at the time of the flight (Wflight). The inputs required to calculate the NNI (i.e., %Na and Wflight) have been estimated through regression analyses between field data and remotely sensed vegetation indices. MCARI/MTVI2 (Modified Chlorophyll Absorption Ratio Index/Modified Triangular Vegetation Index 2) showed the best performances in estimating the %Na (R2 = 0.59) and MTVI2 in estimating the Wflight (R2 = 0.80). The %Na and the Wflight were then mapped and used to compute the NNI map over the entire field. The NNI map agreed with the NNI estimated using field data through traditional destructive measurements (R2 = 0.70) confirming the potential of using remotely sensed indices to assess the crop N condition. Finally, a method to derive a pixel based variable rate N fertilization map was proposed as the difference between the actual N content and the optimal N content. We think that the proposed operational methodology is promising for precision farming since it represents an innovative attempt to derive a variable rate N fertilization map based on the actual crop N status from an aerial hyperspectral image. © 2014 by the authors.

Remote Sensing, (6), 7, pp. 6549-6565,