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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Pendleton, Oregon » Columbia Plateau Conservation Research Center » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #239935

Title: A spectral index to monitor the head-emergence of wheat in semi-arid conditions

item PIMSTEIN, AGUSTIN - Ben Gurion University Of Negev
item EITEL, JAN - University Of Idaho
item Long, Daniel
item MUFRADI, ISRAEL - Gilat Research Center
item KARNIELI, ARNON - Ben Gurion University Of Negev
item BONFIL, DAVID - Gilat Research Center

Submitted to: Field Crops Research
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/20/2008
Publication Date: 3/1/2009
Citation: Pimstein, A., Eitel, J.U., Long, D.S., Mufradi, I., Karnieli, A., Bonfil, D.J. 2009. A spectral index to monitor the head-emergence of wheat in semi-arid conditions. Field Crops Research. 111:218-225.

Interpretive Summary: It may be more profitable to harvest wheat as forage rather than grain, especially in years of severe drought. Growers can use an existing decision support system to help them decide whether to harvest the crop early for hay or silage, or harvest the grain at maturity. However, timely information is needed on the water and nitrogen nutrition status of the crop at the end of the booting stage of growth in wheat. The objective of this study was to develop a spectral index that could be used with satellite imagery to identify when wheat was at the booting stage. Findings from experiments conducted with wheat showed that changes in crop reflectance at the 1.2 micron water absorption feature could be used to separate data acquired before and after head emergence. A new heading index was developed that can be used for identifying the onset of heading in wheat and promoting use of the decision support system.

Technical Abstract: Harvesting wheat (Triticium aestivum L.) for forage or leaving it for grain is the main decision uncertainty growers face in semi-arid regions during mid-season. To facilitate decision-making, a decision support system (DSS) has recently been proposed that requires information about crop water and nutritional status during spike emergence. Though remote sensing has been used to provide site-specific crop status information, a spectral vegetation index is needed to ensure that the information has been acquired during spike emergence. The objective of this study was to propose a spectral index sensitive to spike emergence and validate its suitability across different commercial farm fields by using ground spectral measurements and multispectral satellite imagery. To develop the index, controlled experiments with commonly grown wheat varieties were conducted during the 2004/2005 and 2005/2006 growing season in the agricultural area of the northern Negev desert of Israel. The experiments showed that spike emergence correlated most strongly (r = 0.7, p < 0.05) with spectral changes near the 1.2 mm water absorption feature in contrast to the band at 1.1 mm which appeared to be only weakly correlated. Thus, the spike emergence sensitive band at 1.2 mm has been combined with the insensitive band at 1.1 mm as reference to form the ratio-based normalized heading index (NHI). Experimental data were then used to establish an index threshold that helps separate data acquired before and after spike emergence. The proposed NHI was able to identify spike emergence with a classification accuracy varying between 53 and 83%. Accuracy was influenced by season, and whether narrow or broad spectral bands were used. Validation of the index in commercial farm fields in Israel and the United States showed that the classification accuracy was similar for ground spectral measurements and the advanced land imager (ALI) satellite imagery. These results suggest that the NHI is suited for identifying the onset of heading throughout wheat-growing areas without the need for characterizing seasonal trends.