Assessment of RapidEye vegetation indices for estimation of leaf area index and biomass in corn and soybean crops


Kross, A., McNairn, H., Lapen, D., Sunohara, M., Champagne, C. (2015). Assessment of RapidEye vegetation indices for estimation of leaf area index and biomass in corn and soybean crops. International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation, [online] 34(1), 235-248.


Leaf area index (LAI) and biomass are important indicators of crop development and the availability of this information during the growing season can support farmer decision making processes. This study demonstrates the applicability of RapidEye multi-spectral data for estimation of LAI and biomass of two crop types (corn and soybean) with different canopy structure, leaf structure and photosynthetic pathways. The advantages of Rapid Eye in terms of increased temporal resolution (~daily), high spatial resolution(~5 m) and enhanced spectral information (includes red-edge band) are explored as an individual sensor and as part of a multi-sensor constellation. Seven vegetation indices based on combinations of reflectance in green, red, red-edge and near infrared bands were derived from RapidEye imagery between 2011 and 2013. LAI and biomass data were collected during the same period for calibration and validation of the relationships between vegetation indices and LAI and dry above-ground biomass. Most indices showed sensitivity to LAI from emergence to 8 m2/m2. The normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI), the red-edge NDVI and the green NDVI were insensitive to crop type and had coefficients of variations (CV) ranging between 19 and 27%; and coefficients of determination ranging between 86 and 88%. The NDVI performed best for the estimation of dry leaf biomass (CV = 27% and r2= 090) and was also insensitive to crop type. The red-edge indices did not show any significant improvement in LAI and biomass estimation over traditional multispectral indices. Cumulative vegetation indices showed strong performance for estimation of total dry above-ground biomass, especially for corn (CV ≤ 20%). This study demonstrated that continuous crop LAI monitoring over time and space at the field level can be achieved using a combination of RapidEye, Landsat and SPOT data and sensor-dependant best-fit functions. This approach eliminates/reduces the need for reflectance resampling, VIs inter-calibration and spatial resampling.Crown Copyright claimed by UK, Canadian or Australian Government employee This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license.