Spectral measurements at different spatial scales in potato: relating leaf, plant and canopy nitrogen status

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Chlorophyll contents in vegetation depend on soil nitrogen availability and on crop nitrogen uptake, which are important management factors in arable farming. Crop nitrogen uptake is important, as nitrogen is needed for chlorophyll formation, which is important for photosynthesis, i.e. the conversion of absorbed radiance into plant biomass. The objective of this study was to estimate leaf and canopy nitrogen contents by near and remote sensing observations and to link observations at leaf, plant and canopy level. A theoretical base is presented for scaling-up leaf optical properties to whole plants and crops, by linking different optical recording techniques at leaf, plant and canopy levels through the integration of vertical nitrogen distribution. Field data come from potato experiments in The Netherlands in 1997 and 1998, comprising two potato varieties: Eersteling and Bintje, receiving similar nitrogen treatments (0, 100, 200 and 300 kg N ha-1) in varying application schemes to create differences in canopy nitrogen status during the growing season. Ten standard destructive field samplings were performed to follow leaf area index and crop dry weight evolution. Samples were analysed for inorganic nitrogen and total nitrogen contents. At sampling dates, spectral measurements were taken both at leaf level and at canopy level. At leaf level, an exponential relation between SPAD-502 readings and leaf organic nitrogen contents with a high correlation factor of 0.91 was found. At canopy level, an exponential relation between canopy organic nitrogen contents and red edge position (L rep, nm) derived from reflectance measurements was found with a good correlation of 0.82. Spectral measurements (SPAD-502) at leaf level of a few square mm were related to canopy reflectance measurements (CropScan-TM of approximately 0.44 m2. Statistical regression techniques were used to optimise theoretical vertical nitrogen profiles that allowed scaling-up leaf chlorophyll measurements to canopy nitrogen values. A nitrogen attenuation coefficient (kN) of 0.41 g N m-2 soil resulted in highest correlation coefficients for scaling-up nitrogen contents from leaf to canopy values. Remote sensing of canopy nitrogen (g N m-2 soil) did not require considering vertical nitrogen profiles, as canopy reflectance measurements were able to integrate organic nitrogen over total canopy depth. The integration of near sensing techniques, theories on the interpretation of reflectance signatures and vertical crop nitrogen distribution allowed scaling between leaf chlorophyll measurements and canopy nitrogen values. This results in more accurate quantification of the nitrogen status of a potato crop, which is important information in potato crop management
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)205-218
JournalInternational Journal of applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2004

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