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Assessing the Impact of Spatial Resolution on the Estimation of Leaf Nitrogen Concentration Over the Full Season of Paddy Rice Using Near-Surface Imaging Spectroscopy Data


Timely monitoring nitrogen status of rice crops with remote sensing can help us optimize nitrogen fertilizer management and reduce environmental pollution. Recently, the use of near-surface imaging spectroscopy is emerging as a promising technology that can collect hyperspectral images with spatial resolutions ranging from millimeters to decimeters. The spatial resolution is crucial for the efficiency in the image sampling across rice plants and the separation of leaf signals from the background. However, the optimal spatial resolution of such images for monitoring the leaf nitrogen concentration (LNC) in rice crops remains unclear. To assess the impact of spatial resolution on the estimation of rice LNC, we collected ground-based hyperspectral images throughout the entire growing season over 2 consecutive years and generated ten sets of images with spatial resolutions ranging from 1.3 to 450 mm. These images were used to determine the sensitivity of LNC prediction to spatial resolution with three groups of vegetation indices (VIs) and two multivariate methods Gaussian Process regression (GPR) and Partial least squares regression (PLSR). The reflectance spectra of sunlit-, shaded-, and all-leaf leaf pixels separated from background pixels at each spatial resolution were used to predict LNC with VIs, GPR and PLSR, respectively. The results demonstrated all-leaf pixels generally exhibited more stable performance than sunlit- and shaded-leaf pixels regardless of estimation approaches. The predictions of LNC required stage-specific LNC~VI models for each vegetative stage but could be performed with a single model for all the reproductive stages. Specifically, most VIs achieved stable performances from all the resolutions finer than 14 mm for the early tillering stage but from all the resolutions finer than 56 mm for the other stages. In contrast, the global models for the prediction of LNC across the entire growing season were successfully established with the approaches of GPR or PLSR. In particular, GPR generally exhibited the best prediction of LNC with the optimal spatial resolution being found at 28 mm. These findings represent significant advances in the application of ground-based imaging spectroscopy as a promising approach to crop monitoring and understanding the effects of spatial resolution on the estimation of rice LNC.

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