A Generic Model to Estimate Wheat LAI over Growing Season Regardless of the Soil-Type Background


It is valuable to develop a generic model that can accurately estimate the leaf area index (LAI) of wheat from unmanned aerial vehicle-based multispectral data for diverse soil backgrounds without any ground calibration. To achieve this objective, 2 strategies were investigated to improve our existing random forest regression (RFR) model, which was trained with simulations from a radiative transfer model (PROSAIL). The 2 strategies consisted of (a) broadening the reflectance domain of soil background to generate training data and (b) finding an appropriate set of indicators (band reflectance and/or vegetation indices) as inputs of the RFR model. The RFR models were tested in diverse soils representing varying soil types in Australia. Simulation analysis indicated that adopting both strategies resulted in a generic model that can provide accurate estimation for wheat LAI and is resistant to changes in soil background. From validation on 2 years of field trials, this model achieved high prediction accuracy for LAI over the entire crop cycle (LAI up to 7 m2 m−2) (root mean square error (RMSE): 0.23 to 0.89 m2 m−2), including for sparse canopy (LAI less than 0.3 m2 m−2) grown on different soil types (RMSE: 0.02 to 0.25 m2 m−2). The model reliably captured the seasonal pattern of LAI dynamics for different treatments in terms of genotypes, plant densities, and water–nitrogen managements (correlation coefficient: 0.82 to 0.98). With appropriate adaptations, this framework can be adjusted to any type of sensors to estimate various traits for various species (including but not limited to LAI of wheat) in associated disciplines, e.g., crop breeding, precision agriculture, etc.

Plant Phenomics
Bangyou Zheng
Bangyou Zheng
Data Scientist / Digital Agronomist

a research scientist of digital agriculture at the CSIRO.