Evaluating the potential of aerial remote sensing in flue-cured tobacco
Hayes, Austin Craig
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Flue-cured tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum L.) is a high value-per-acre crop that is intensively managed to optimize the yield of high quality cured leaf. Aerial remote sensing, specifically unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), present flue-cured tobacco producers and researchers with a potential tool for scouting and crop management. A two-year study, conducted in Southside Virginia at the Southern Piedmont Agricultural Research and Extension Center and on commercial farms, assessed the potential of aerial remote sensing in flue-cured tobacco. The effort encompassed two key objectives. First, examine the use of the enhanced normalized difference vegetation index (ENDVI) for separating flue-cured tobacco varieties and nitrogen rates. Secondly, develop hyperspectral indices and/or machine learning classification models capable of detecting Phytophthora nicotianae (black shank) incidence in flue-cured tobacco. In 2017, UAV-acquired ENDVI surveys demonstrated the ability to consistently separate between flue-cured tobacco varieties and nitrogen rates from topping to harvest. In 2018, ENDVI revealed significant differences among N-rates as early as 34 days after transplanting. Two hyperspectral indices were developed to detect black shank incidence based on differences in the spectral profiles of asymptomatic flue-cured tobacco plants compared to those with black shank symptoms. Testing of the indices showed significant differences between the index values of healthy and symptomatic plants (alpha = 0.05). In addition, the indices were able to detect black shank symptoms pre-symptomatically (alpha = 0.09). Subspace linear discriminant analysis, a machine learning classification, was also used for prediction of black shank incidence with up to 85.7% classification accuracy.
General Audience Abstract
Unmanned Aerial Vehicle’s (UAVs) or drones, as they are commonly referred to, may have potential as a tool in flue-cured tobacco research and production. UAVs combined with sensors and cameras provide the opportunity to gather a large amount of data on a particular crop, which may be useful in crop management. Given the intensive management of flue-cured tobacco, producers may benefit from extra insight on how to better assess threats to yield such as under-fertilization and disease pressure. A two-year study was conducted in Southside Virginia at the Southern Piedmont Agricultural Research and Extension Center and on commercial farms. There were two objectives to this effort. First, assess the ability of UAV-acquired multispectral near-infrared imagery to separate flue-cured tobacco varieties and nitrogen rates. Secondly, develop hyperspectral indices and machine learning models that can accurately predict the incidence of black shank in flue-cured tobacco. Flue-cured tobacco nitrogen rates were significantly different in 2017 from 59 days after transplanting to harvest using UAV-acquired near-infrared imagery. In 2018, heavy rainfall may have led to nitrogen leaching from the soil resulting in nitrogen rates being significantly different as early as 34 days after transplanting. The imagery also showed a significant relationship with variety maturation type in the late stages of crop development during ripening. Two hyperspectral indices were developed and one machine learning model was trained. Each had the ability to detect black shank incidence in fluecured tobacco pre-symptomatically, as well as separated black shank infested plants from healthy plants.
- Masters Theses