Estimating N status of winter wheat using a handheld spectrometer in the North China Plain

Fei Li, Martin L. Gnyp, Liangliang Jia, Yuxin Miao, Zihui Yu, Wolfgang Koppe, Georg Bareth, Xinping Chen, Fusuo Zhang

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100 Scopus citations


Excessive nitrogen (N) fertilizer application is very common in the North China Plain. Diagnosis of in-season N status in crops is critical for precision N management in this area. Remote sensing, as a timely and nondestructive tool, could be an alternative to traditional plant testing for diagnosing crop N status. The objectives of this study were to determine which vegetation indices could be used to estimate N status in winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) under high N input conditions, develop models to predict winter wheat N uptake using spectral vegetation indices and validate the models with data from farmers' fields. An N rate experiment and a variety-N experiment were conducted in Huimin, Shandong Province from 2005/2006 to 2006/2007 to develop the models. Positive linear relationships between simple ratio vegetation indices (red vegetation index, RVI and green vegetation index, GVI) and N uptake were observed independent of growth stages and varieties (R2, 0.48-0.74). In contrast, the relationships between normalized difference vegetation indices (NDVI and GNDVI), red and green normalized difference vegetation index (RGNDI), and red and green ratio vegetation index (RGVI) were exponentially related to N uptake (R2, 0.43-0.79). Subsequently, 69 farmers' fields in four different villages were selected as datasets to validate the developed models. The results indicated that the prediction using RVI had the highest coefficient of determination (R2, 0.60), the lowest root mean square error (RMSE, 39.7 kg N ha-1) and relative error (RE, 30.5%) across different years, varieties and growth stages. We conclude that RVI can be used to estimate nitrogen status for winter wheat in over-fertilized farmers' fields before heading.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)77-85
Number of pages9
JournalField Crops Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 27 2008

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was financially supported by the Natural Science Foundation of China (Project number: 30571080), the Program for Changjiang Scholars and Innovative Research Team in University (IRT 0511), International Bureau of the BMBF, Germany and the GIS & RS Group of the University of Cologne.


  • Field spectrometer
  • N uptake
  • Over-fertilization
  • Vegetation indices


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