Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Plants, Soils, and Climate

Department name when degree awarded

Plants, Soils, and Biometeorology


Bruce Bugbee


Ground-based spectral imaging devices offer an important supplement to satellite imagery. Hand-held, ground-based sensors allow rapid, inexpensive measurements that are not affected by the earth’s atmosphere. They also provide a basis for high altitude spectral indices.

We quantified the spectral reflectance characteristics of hard red spring wheat (Triticum aestivum cv. Westbred 936) in research plots subjected to either nitrogen or water stress in a two year study. Both types of stress reduced ground cover, which was evaluated by digital photography and compared with ten spectral reflectance indices. On plots with a similar soil background, simple indices such as the normalized difference vegetation index, ratio vegetation index, and difference vegetation index were equal to or superior to more complex vegetation indices for predicting ground cover. Yield was estimated by integrating the normalized difference vegetation index over the growing season. The coefficient of determination (r2) between integrated normalized difference vegetation index and final yield was 0.86.

Unfortunately, none of these indices were able to differentiate between the intensity of green leaf color and ground cover fraction, and thus could not distinguish nitrogen from water stress. We developed a reflective index that can differentiate nitrogen and water stress over a wide range of ground cover. The index is based on the ratio of the green and red variants of the normalized difference vegetation index. The new index was able to distinguish nitrogen and water stress from satellite data using wavelengths less than 1000 nm. This index should be broadly applicable over a wide range of plant types and environments.