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Sensors 2013, 13(8), 10823-10843; doi:10.3390/s130810823

A Review of Methods for Sensing the Nitrogen Status in Plants: Advantages, Disadvantages and Recent Advances

1,* , 1
1 Ingeniería de Biosistemas CA, División de Estudios de Posgrado, Facultad de Ingeniería, Universidad Autónoma de Querétaro, Cerro de las Campanas S/N, 76010 Querétaro, Qro., Mexico 2 Departamento de Ingeniería Electrónica, Instituto Tecnológico de Celaya, Av. Tecnológico y García Cubas S/N, 38010 Celaya, Gto., Mexico
* Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 12 July 2013 / Revised: 8 August 2013 / Accepted: 13 August 2013 / Published: 16 August 2013
(This article belongs to the Section Remote Sensors)
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Nitrogen (N) plays a key role in the plant life cycle. It is the main plant mineral nutrient needed for chlorophyll production and other plant cell components (proteins, nucleic acids, amino acids). Crop yield is affected by plant N status. Thus, the optimization of nitrogen fertilization has become the object of intense research due to its environmental and economic impact. This article focuses on reviewing current methods and techniques used to determine plant N status. Kjeldahl digestion and Dumas combustion have been used as reference methods for N determination in plants, but they are destructive and time consuming. By using spectroradiometers, reflectometers, imagery from satellite sensors and digital cameras, optical properties have been measured to estimate N in plants, such as crop canopy reflectance, leaf transmittance, chlorophyll and polyphenol fluorescence. High correlation has been found between optical parameters and plant N status, and those techniques are not destructive. However, some drawbacks include chlorophyll saturation, atmospheric and soil interference, and the high cost of instruments. Electrical properties of plant tissue have been used to estimate quality in fruits, and water content in plants, as well as nutrient deficiency, which suggests that they have potential for use in plant N determination.
Keywords: crop nitrogen; instrumentation; chlorophyll; remote sensing; electrical impedance crop nitrogen; instrumentation; chlorophyll; remote sensing; electrical impedance
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Muñoz-Huerta, R.F.; Guevara-Gonzalez, R.G.; Contreras-Medina, L.M.; Torres-Pacheco, I.; Prado-Olivarez, J.; Ocampo-Velazquez, R.V. A Review of Methods for Sensing the Nitrogen Status in Plants: Advantages, Disadvantages and Recent Advances. Sensors 2013, 13, 10823-10843.

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