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A method to estimate plant density and plant spacing heterogeneity: application to wheat crops

Liu, Shouyang, Baret, Fred, Allard, Denis, Jin, Xiuliang, Andrieu, Bruno, Burger, Philippe, Hemmerlé, Matthieu, Comar, Alexis
Plant methods 2017 v.13 no.1 pp. 38
crops, cultivars, environmental factors, models, plant density, sowing, uncertainty, weeds, wheat
BACKGROUND: Plant density and its non-uniformity drive the competition among plants as well as with weeds. They need thus to be estimated with small uncertainties accuracy. An optimal sampling method is proposed to estimate the plant density in wheat crops from plant counting and reach a given precision. RESULTS: Three experiments were conducted in 2014 resulting in 14 plots across varied sowing density, cultivars and environmental conditions. The coordinates of the plants along the row were measured over RGB high resolution images taken from the ground level. Results show that the spacing between consecutive plants along the row direction are independent and follow a gamma distribution under the varied conditions experienced. A gamma count model was then derived to define the optimal sample size required to estimate plant density for a given precision. Results suggest that measuring the length of segments containing 90 plants will achieve a precision better than 10%, independently from the plant density. This approach appears more efficient than the usual method based on fixed length segments where the number of plants are counted: the optimal length for a given precision on the density estimation will depend on the actual plant density. The gamma count model parameters may also be used to quantify the heterogeneity of plant spacing along the row by exploiting the variability between replicated samples. Results show that to achieve a 10% precision on the estimates of the 2 parameters of the gamma model, 200 elementary samples corresponding to the spacing between 2 consecutive plants should be measured. CONCLUSIONS: This method provides an optimal sampling strategy to estimate the plant density and quantify the plant spacing heterogeneity along the row.