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Estimating forage quantity and quality under different stress and senescent biomass conditions via spectral reflectance

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Assessing forage quantity and quality through remote sensing can facilitate grassland and pasture management. However, the high spatial and temporal variability of canopy conditions may limit the predictive accuracy of models based on reflectance measurements. The objective of this work was to develop this type of models, and to challenge their capacity to predict plant properties under a wide range of environmental conditions. We manipulated Paspalum dilatatum canopies through different stress treatments (flooding, drought, nutrient availability, and control) and by artificially varying the amount of senescent biomass. We measured canopy reflectance and constructed simple models, based on either normalized vegetation indices or a few selected wavebands, to estimate biomass and two variables related to forage quality: proportion of photosynthetic vegetation and biomass C:N ratio. General models satisfactorily predicted plant properties for the whole set of environmental conditions, but failed under specific conditions such as drought (for estimates of plant biomass), fertilization (for estimates of C:N ratio), and different levels of senescent tillers (for estimates of the proportion of photosynthetic vegetation). Where general models failed, specific models, based on different bands, achieved satisfactory accuracy. The general models performed better when based on a few selected bands than when based on two-band vegetation indices, having better accuracy (higher R 2) and parsimony (lower BIC). However specific models performed similarly for both approaches (similar R 2 and BIC). These results indicate that these plant properties can be predicted from reflectance information under a broad range of conditions, but not for some particular conditions, where ancillary data or more complex models are probably needed to increase predictive accuracy.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Laboratorio de Análisis Regional y Teledetección, IFEVA, Faculty of Agronomy, University of Buenos Aires, Conicet, C1417DSE, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Publication date: May 3, 2014

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