Detection of Water Stress in Cereals via UAV Thermography

Water Stress Detection in Cereals

with UAV Thermography

The availability of water throughout a crop’s growth cycle is a primary factor affecting the yield, quality, and profitability of agricultural production. During droughts, plants become stressed and close their stomata, and the vital transpiration process that cools vegetation slows. In areas experiencing climatic variability, monitoring plant temperatures is key to ensuring crop health.

Experimental lands and areas

The rapid detection and quantification of elements of varietal resistance to stress, as well as the quick detection and quantification of the elements of surface variability for weak moisture, are essential for the management of field crops. This data can be used for the selection and delimitation of species and varieties of crops within agricultural enterprises. They can also be used for precision farming, the clarification of moisture needs in irrigation, and a variety of other applications.

To scan the thermal condition of experimental varieties, we used the Workswell WIRIS thermal camera, supported by the DJI S1000 UAV platform. The flight was pre-programmed via UGCS Ground Station. Then, the data was processed in the Pix4D program and analyzed by Workswell CorePlayer and Workswell Thermoformat software.

The figure on the left shows the experimental land and the experimental areas (the latter in detail) (1500 m2), with tests aimed at the lines of winter wheat with differently sized root systems, each of which affects drought tolerance. Stress is induced by shading and the optimal water content is maintained by dripping irrigation.

Our data analysis and validation in semi-operating conditions suggests a new possibility for the quantitative and qualitative evaluation of abiotic stress induced in cereals due to lack of moisture.

For further applications, we foresee the development of models based on exact ground measurements. In combination with such ground measurements, data scanned from the air shall be easily, quickly and reliably interpreted, even when it is based on the index of water stress in plants (CWSI) that is specific to certain varieties in the area of cultivation.