Evaluation of the nitrogen sufficiency index for use with high resolution, broadband aerial imagery in a commercial potato field

Tyler J. Nigon, D J Mulla, Carl J Rosen, Yafit Cohen, Victor Alchanatis, Ronit Rud

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17 Scopus citations


The nitrogen sufficiency index (NSI) can be used for in-season variable rate management of nitrogen (N) fertilizer to maintain productivity of potato (Solanum tuberosum, L.) while reducing leaching losses. The objective of this study was to evaluate the implications of using high spatial resolution broad-band imagery for determining N prescriptions at different growth stages. Aerial images were obtained for research plots, as well as for a commercial potato field (59 ha) near Becker, Minnesota on 30, 56 and 79 days after emergence (DAE) with a Redlake MS4100 multispectral camera. In research plots, experimental treatments included five N treatments with varying rates and timing of N fertilizer, and two potato varieties, Russet Burbank and Alpine Russet. Spectral indices investigated in this study adequately predicted N stress based on leaf N concentration (r 2 values within dates ranged from 0.49 to 0.82). On 56 and 79 DAE, the Green Ratio Vegetation Index (GRVI) normalized by an NSI that used the recommended rate and timing from the research plots as a reference showed that most areas of the commercial field did not require supplemental N fertilizer (using an NSI over-sufficiency threshold of 120 %). Based on regional guidelines, N was over-applied to the commercial field, but in situations where N is applied more sparingly, a GRVI NSI threshold of 80 % should be used to identify areas that are most suitable for supplemental N fertilizer. A practical approach and the implications associated with using spectral data for in-season N management are proposed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)202-226
Number of pages25
JournalPrecision Agriculture
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments Financial support for this project was provided by the Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund (through Research Grant Award No. IS-4255-09), the Hueg-Harrison Fellowship and the Minnesota Area II Potato Growers. The Upper Midwest Aerospace Consortium (UMAC) at the University of North Dakota is acknowledged for acquiring the imagery for this study; also, K & O Farms is acknowledged for allowing us to work with them on this study.


  • Chlorophyll meter
  • Coefficient of variation
  • High spatial resolution imagery
  • Spectral indices
  • Virtual reference


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