Method for accurate multi-growth-stage estimation of fractional vegetation cover using unmanned aerial vehicle remote sensing

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Abstract

Background: Fractional vegetation cover (FVC) is an important parameter for evaluating crop-growth status. Optical remote-sensing techniques combined with the pixel dichotomy model (PDM) are widely used to estimate cropland FVC with medium to high spatial resolution on the ground. However, PDM-based FVC estimation is limited by effects stemming from the variation of crop canopy chlorophyll content (CCC). To overcome this difficulty, we propose herein a “fan-shaped method” (FSM) that uses a CCC spectral index (SI) and a vegetation SI to create a two-dimensional scatter map in which the three vertices represent high-CCC vegetation, low-CCC vegetation, and bare soil. The FVC at each pixel is determined based on the spatial location of the pixel in the two-dimensional scatter map, which mitigates the effects of CCC on the PDM. To evaluate the accuracy of FSM estimates of the FVC, we analyze the spectra obtained from (a) the PROSAIL model and (b) a spectrometer mounted on an unmanned aerial vehicle platform. Specifically, we use both the proposed FSM and traditional remote-sensing FVC-estimation methods (both linear and nonlinear regression and PDM) to estimate soybean FVC. Results: Field soybean CCC measurements indicate that (a) the soybean CCC increases continuously from the flowering growth stage to the later-podding growth stage, and then decreases with increasing crop growth stages, (b) the coefficient of variation of soybean CCC is very large in later growth stages (31.58–35.77%) and over all growth stages (26.14%). FVC samples with low CCC are underestimated by the PDM. Linear and nonlinear regression underestimates (overestimates) FVC samples with low (high) CCC. The proposed FSM depends less on CCC and is thus a robust method that can be used for multi-stage FVC estimation of crops with strongly varying CCC. Conclusions: Estimates and maps of FVC based on the later growth stages and on multiple growth stages should consider the variation of crop CCC. FSM can mitigates the effect of CCC by conducting a PDM at each CCC level. The FSM is a robust method that can be used to estimate FVC based on multiple growth stages where crop CCC varies greatly.

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Yue, J., Guo, W., Yang, G., Zhou, C., Feng, H., & Qiao, H. (2021). Method for accurate multi-growth-stage estimation of fractional vegetation cover using unmanned aerial vehicle remote sensing. Plant Methods, 17(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13007-021-00752-3

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