MULTI-TEMPORAL CROP SURFACE MODELS COMBINED WITH THE RGB VEGETATION INDEX FROM UAV-BASED IMAGES FOR FORAGE MONITORING IN GRASSLAND
Keywords: Precision Agriculture, Grassland, UAV, Crop Surface Model, Structure from Motion, RGBVI
Abstract. Remote sensing of crop biomass is important in regard to precision agriculture, which aims to improve nutrient use efficiency and to develop better stress and disease management. In this study, multi-temporal crop surface models (CSMs) were generated from UAV-based dense imaging in order to derive plant height distribution and to determine forage mass. The low-cost UAV-based RGB imaging was carried out in a grassland experiment at the University of Bonn, Germany, in summer 2015. The test site comprised three consecutive growths including six different nitrogen fertilizer levels and three replicates, in sum 324 plots with a size of 1.5×1.5 m. Each growth consisted of six harvesting dates. RGB-images and biomass samples were taken at twelve dates nearly biweekly within two growths between June and September 2015. Images were taken with a DJI Phantom 2 in combination of a 2D Zenmuse gimbal and a GoPro Hero 3 (black edition). Overlapping images were captured in 13 to 16 m and overview images in approximately 60 m height at 2 frames per second. The RGB vegetation index (RGBVI) was calculated as the normalized difference of the squared green reflectance and the product of blue and red reflectance from the non-calibrated images. The post processing was done with Agisoft PhotoScan Professional (SfM-based) and Esri ArcGIS. 14 ground control points (GCPs) were located in the field, distinguished by 30 cm × 30 cm markers and measured with a RTK-GPS (HiPer Pro Topcon) with 0.01 m horizontal and vertical precision. The errors of the spatial resolution in x-, y-, z-direction were in a scale of 3-4 cm. From each survey, also one distortion corrected image was georeferenced by the same GCPs and used for the RGBVI calculation. The results have been used to analyse and evaluate the relationship between estimated plant height derived with this low-cost UAV-system and forage mass. Results indicate that the plant height seems to be a suitable indicator for forage mass. There is a robust correlation of crop height related with dry matter (R² = 0.6). The RGBVI seems not to be a suitable indicator for forage mass in grassland, although the results provided a medium correlation by combining plant height and RGBVI to dry matter (R² = 0.5).