Improving in-season nitrogen recommendations for maize using an active sensor

J. Schmidt, D. Beegle, Q. Zhu, R. Sripada

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


An active crop canopy reflectance sensor could be used to increase N-use efficiency in maize (Zea mays L.), if temporal and spatial variability in soil N availability and plant demand are adequately accounted for with an in-season N application. Our objective was to evaluate the success of using an active canopy sensor for developing maize N recommendations. This study was conducted in 21 farmers' fields from 2007 to 2009, representing the maize production regions of east central and southeastern Pennsylvania, USA. Four blocks at each site included seven sidedress N rates (0-280kgNha-1) and one at-planting N rate of 280kgNha-1. Canopy reflectance in the 590nm and 880nm wavelengths, soil samples, chlorophyll meter (SPAD) measurements and above-ground biomass were collected at the 6th-7th-leaf growth stage (V6-V7). Relative amber normalized difference vegetative index (ANDVIrelative) and relative SPAD (SPADrelative) were determined based on the relative measurements from the zero sidedress treatment to the 280kgNha-1 at-planting treatment. Observations from the current study were compared to relationships between economic optimum N rate (EONR) and ANDVIrelative, presidedress NO3 test (PSNT), or SPADrelative that were developed from a previous study. These comparisons were based on an absolute mean difference (AMD) between observed EONR and the previously determined predicted relationships. The AMD for the relationship between EONR and ANDVIrelative in the current study was 46kgNha-1. Neither the PSNT (AMD=66kgNha-1) nor the SPADrelative (AMD=72kgNha-1) provided as good an indicator of EONR. When using all the observations from the two studies for the relationships between EONR and the various measurements, ANDVIrelative (R2=0.65) provided a better estimate of EONR than PSNT (R2=0.49) or SPADrelative (not significant). Crop reflectance captured similar information as the PSNT and SPADrelative, as reflected in strong relationships (R2>0.60) among these variables. Crop canopy reflectance using an active sensor (i.e. ANDVIrelative) provided as good or better an indicator of EONR than PSNT or SPADrelative, and provides an opportunity to easily adjust in-season N applications spatially.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)94-101
Number of pages8
JournalField Crops Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 14 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Soil Science


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