Diurnal variation of sun-induced chlorophyll fluorescence of agricultural crops observed from a point-based spectrometer on a UAV

Na Wang*, Juha Suomalainen, Harm Bartholomeus, Lammert Kooistra, Dainius Masiliūnas, Jan G.P.W. Clevers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)-based measurements allow studying sun-induced chlorophyll fluorescence (SIF) at the field scale and can potentially upscale results from ground to airborne/satellite level. The objective of this paper is to present the FluorSpec system providing SIF measurements at the field level onboard a UAV, and to evaluate the potential of this system for understanding diurnal SIF patterns for different arable crops. The core components of FluorSpec are a point spectrometer configured to measure in the O2 absorption bands at sub-nanometer resolution, bifurcated fibre optics to switch between the downwelling irradiance and upwelling radiance measurements, and a laser range finder allowing accurate atmospheric correction. The processing chain is explained and the capability of the novel Spectral Shape Assumption Fraunhofer Line Discrimination (SSA-FLD) method to retrieve SIF was tested. To test the reliability of FluorSpec diurnal SIF measurements, near-canopy diurnal SIF was monitored during the growing season over potato and sugar beet plants with a ground-based setup. The two crops exhibited a clear diurnal SIF pattern, which positively correlated with the photosynthetically active radiation (PAR). The divergence in diurnal patterns between SIF and PAR indicated that the crops might be suffering from heat stress. A significant correlation between SIF and the Photosystem II Quantum Yield was obtained. By mounting the FluorSpec on a UAV, SIF measurements were obtained over the same crops during a clear day. UAV-based SIF also exhibited a pronounced diurnal pattern similar to the ground-based measurements and it showed clear spatial variation within different crop fields. The obtained results demonstrate the ability of the FluorSpec system to reliably measure plant fluorescence at ground and field level, and the possibility of the UAV-based FluorSpec to bridge the scale gap between different levels of SIF observations.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102276
JournalInternational Journal of applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2021


  • Crop traits
  • Diurnal patterns
  • Sun-induced chlorophyll fluorescence
  • Unmanned Aerial Vehicle


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