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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Thermal Infrared Imagery for Better Water Conservation in Agricultural Fields

Authors
item Hawkins, Gary - UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA
item Sullivan, Dana
item Strickland, Timothy
item Truman, Clinton
item Hubbard, Robert
item Lee, Dewey - UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA
item Beasley, John - UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA
item Bland, Geoff - NASA

Submitted to: Georgia Water Resources Conference
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: September 19, 2006
Publication Date: February 27, 2007
Citation: Hawkins, G., Sullivan, D.G., Strickland, T.C., Truman, C.C., Hubbard, R.K., Lee, D., Beasley, J., Bland, G. 2007. Thermal Infrared Imagery for Better Water Conservation in Agricultural Fields. In: Georgia Water Resources Conference, March 27-29, 2007, Athens, Georgia.

Interpretive Summary: Water conservation is an issue that involves all citizens in Georgia. Within the agricultural row crop community, water is a very important part of producing a harvestable and profitable product. Although irrigation is used only as a supplement to natural rainfall, it can greatly affect crop yield and quality. Because of increasing public and industrial concerns over water quality and quantity, the agricultural community must also develop sustainable management systems that conserve water. One method that can be used is conservation tillage. The benefit of water savings through reduced tillage and residue management is a function of: 1) the amount of crop residue that remains after planting, and 2) the amount of water available for the growing plant. The main objective of this study was to evaluate field scale variability in crop response to tillage regime using an unmanned aerial system (UAS). The UAS is equipped with a thermal infrared imager (8-12um) and has an approximate spatial resolution of 0.5 –1.0 m. Treatments consisted of three different cover crops (clover, rye and a rye/clover mix) managed as a strip tillage system and one conventional tillage system with no winter cover. Soil water content (10 –20 cm) and stomatal conductance measurements were collected coincident with each UAS data acquisition. Thermal infrared imagery was validated using a hot and cold calibration targets (2 m x 2m) equipped with thermal couples that were monitored every 10 s throughout the data acquisition. Validation of the UAS will be used to better delineate crop water demand at the field scale, establish the benefits of conservation tillage, and potentially help farmers to conserve water by targeting irrigation events on a site and time specific basis.

Technical Abstract: Water conservation is an issue that involves all citizens in Georgia. Within the agricultural row crop community, water is a very important part of producing a harvestable and profitable product. Although irrigation is used only as a supplement to natural rainfall, it can greatly affect crop yield and quality. Because of increasing public and industrial concerns over water quality and quantity, the agricultural community must also develop sustainable management systems that conserve water. One method that can be used is conservation tillage. The benefit of water savings through reduced tillage and residue management is a function of: 1) the amount of crop residue that remains after planting, and 2) the amount of water available for the growing plant. The main objective of this study was to evaluate field scale variability in crop response to tillage regime using an unmanned aerial system (UAS). The UAS is equipped with a thermal infrared imager (8-12um) and has an approximate spatial resolution of 0.5 –1.0 m. Treatments consisted of three different cover crops (clover, rye and a rye/clover mix) managed as a strip tillage system and one conventional tillage system with no winter cover. Soil water content (10 –20 cm) and stomatal conductance measurements were collected coincident with each UAS data acquisition. Thermal infrared imagery was validated using a hot and cold calibration targets (2 m x 2m) equipped with thermal couples that were monitored every 10 s throughout the data acquisition. Validation of the UAS will be used to better delineate crop water demand at the field scale, establish the benefits of conservation tillage, and potentially help farmers to conserve water by targeting irrigation events on a site and time specific basis.

Last Modified: 12/22/2014
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