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Remote Sens. 2016, 8(7), 605;

Active Optical Sensing of Spring Maize for In-Season Diagnosis of Nitrogen Status Based on Nitrogen Nutrition Index

Key Laboratory of Plant-Soil Interactions, Ministry of Education, International Center for Agro-Informatics and Sustainable Development, College of Resources and Environmental Sciences, China Agricultural University, Beijing 100193, China
Department of Soil and Crop Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Mutlu Ozdogan, Yoshio Inoue and Prasad S. Thenkabail
Received: 1 April 2016 / Revised: 2 July 2016 / Accepted: 11 July 2016 / Published: 19 July 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Remote Sensing in Precision Agriculture)
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The nitrogen (N) nutrition index (NNI) is a reliable indicator of crop N status and there is an urgent need to develop efficient technologies for non-destructive estimation of NNI to support the practical applications of precision N management strategies. The objectives of this study were to: (i) validate a newly established critical N dilution curve for spring maize in Northeast China; (ii) determine the potential of using the GreenSeeker active optical sensor to non-destructively estimate NNI; and (iii) evaluate the performance of different N status diagnostic approaches based on estimated NNI via the GreenSeeker sensor measurements. Four field experiments involving six N rates (0, 60, 120,180, 240, and 300 kg·ha−1) were conducted in 2014 and 2015 in Lishu County, Jilin Province in Northeast China. The results indicated that the newly established critical N dilution curve was suitable for spring maize N status diagnosis in the study region. Across site-years and growth stages (V5–V10), GreenSeeker sensor-based vegetation indices (VIs) explained 87%–90%, 87%–89% and 83%–84% variability of leaf area index (LAI), aboveground biomass (AGB) and plant N uptake (PNU), respectively. However, normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) became saturated when LAI > 2 m2·m−2, AGB > 3 t·ha−1 or PNU > 80 kg·ha−1. The GreenSeeker-based VIs performed better for estimating LAI, AGB and PNU at V5–V6 and V7–V8 than the V9–V10 growth stages, but were very weakly related to plant N concentration. The response index calculated with GreenSeeker NDVI (RI–NDVI) and ratio vegetation index (R2 = 0.56–0.68) performed consistently better than the original VIs (R2 = 0.33–0.55) for estimating NNI. The N status diagnosis accuracy rate using RI–NDVI was 81% and 71% at V7–V8 and V9–V10 growth stages, respectively. We conclude that the response indices calculated with the GreenSeeker-based vegetation indices can be used to estimate spring maize NNI non-destructively and for in-season N status diagnosis between V7 and V10 growth stages under experimental conditions with variable N supplies. More studies are needed to further evaluate different approaches under diverse on-farm conditions and develop side-dressing N recommendation algorithms. View Full-Text
Keywords: precision nitrogen management; active optical sensor; nitrogen status indicator; response index; nitrogen status diagnosis precision nitrogen management; active optical sensor; nitrogen status indicator; response index; nitrogen status diagnosis

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Xia, T.; Miao, Y.; Wu, D.; Shao, H.; Khosla, R.; Mi, G. Active Optical Sensing of Spring Maize for In-Season Diagnosis of Nitrogen Status Based on Nitrogen Nutrition Index. Remote Sens. 2016, 8, 605.

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