DDD Conference

Mr. Simon Futerman

Remote Sensing of Cover Crops: Using Cover Crops as Reflectors of the Spatial Variation in Soil Nutrient Availability

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel

Quantifying spatial variability of soil nutrients is of great importance as it has a direct effect on crop production and environmental pollution. Remote sensing (RS) is a promising tool to gather high spatial resolution information regarding nutrient availability. Cover crops (CC) are incorporated into the crop rotation in order to provide ecosystem services and are often sown in the winter, prior to sowing the cash crop, rather than leaving a bare soil. The benefits of sowing CC include, among others, reducing soil erosion; weed suppression; uptake of nutrients prone to leach, such as nitrate; and N2 fixation when using legumes. We propose a novel approach suggesting that the practice of mixtures of cover crops, together with RS, may reflect the spatial variation in soil nutrient availability. This concept was examined in a study in the Model Farm for Sustainable Agriculture in Neve Ya’ar, Northern Israel. The study had two main goals: (i) inspecting and measuring CC nutrient uptake and biomass based on visual symptoms of nutrient deficiencies, and (ii) using RS, with a UAV equipped with an RGB camera, to classify CC into groups of interest and use the information to generate high-resolution spatial nutrient uptake information aimed at guiding basal fertilizer applications for the following cash crop. In addition to the case study, we suggest, and will briefly present, approaches of using RS of CC to detect two major essential macronutrients: nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P).

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