Spectral indices from aerial images and their relationship with properties of a corn crop

  • Mauricio Farrell
  • Adriana Gili
  • Elke Noellemeyer
Technical Note


Identification of areas with similar restrictions to crop productivity could improve the efficiency to manage agricultural systems, guarantee stable yields, and reduce the effect of droughts in rainfed systems. The ability of any vegetation index to discriminate N and moisture-related changes in leaf reflectance would present an important advantage over the present diagnostic system which involves soil-testing for moisture and available N. The purpose of the study was to calibrate different vegetation indices regarding their capacity to identify water and nitrogen availability for rainfed corn crops in the semiarid Pampas of Argentina. A field experiment with corn with a control without fertilization (N0), and fertilized with 120 kg ha−1 of nitrogen (N120) was used. Two sites, Low (L) and High (H), were identified within the field, according to their altimetry, a multi-spectral aerial photography was taken from a manned airplane during flowering stage of the corn crop, and four spectral indices were calculated (NDVI, green NDVI, NGRDI, (NIR/GREEN)-1). At six georeferenced points at each site soil texture, organic matter, available phosphorus, nitrogen and moisture contents as well as corn aerial biomass and grain yield were determined. The two sites differed in most of the evaluated soil properties, crop biomass and grain yield. The spectral information obtained at crop flowering showed clear differences between sites H and L for all four indices, indicating that any of these would be able to detect the differences in soil moisture and fertility among these environments. Both (NIR/GREEN)-1 and green NDVI had the best correlation with crop yield determined in the field, and therefore could be considered most appropriate for estimating corn yields from images taken at flowering. For estimation of N requirements, green NDVI differentiated best between fertilized and non-fertilized crop in the moisture limited environment (H), while (NIR/GREEN)-1 performed better in the site where soil moisture was non-limiting (L).


Vegetation indices Multispectral images Corn yield Nitrogen fertilization response 



The present study was financed by internal funds of INTA Anguil Experimental Station.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Institute for Agricultural Technology (INTA), Anguil Experimental StationAnguilArgentina
  2. 2.Facultad de Agronomía, Universidad Nacional de La PampaSanta RosaArgentina

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