Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


To, S. D. Filip

Committee Member

Bora, Ganesh C.

Committee Member

Dash, Padmanava

Committee Member

Varco, Jac

Date of Degree


Original embargo terms


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Biological Engineering

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Agriculture and Life Sciences


Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering


Nitrogen (N) is the most critical fertilizer applied nutrient for supporting plant growth. It is a critical part of photosynthesis as a component of chlorophyl, hence it is a key indicator of plant health. In recent years, rapid development of multispectral sensing technology and machine learning (ML) methods make it possible to estimate leaf chemical components such as N for predicting yield spatially and temporally. The objectives of this study were to compare the relationships between canopy reflectance and corn (Zea mays L.) leaf N concentration acquired by two multispectral sensors: red-edge multispectral camera mounted on the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) and crop circle ACS-430. Four fertilizer N rates were applied, ranging from deficient to excessivein order to have a broad rangein plant N status. Spectral information was collected at different phenological stages of corn to calculate vegetation indices (VIs) for each stage. Moreover, leaf samples were taken simultaneously to determine N concentration. Different ML methods (Multi-Layer Perceptron (MLP), Support Vector Machines (SVMs), Random Forest regression, Regularized regression models, and Gradient Boosting) were used to estimate leaf N% from VIs and predict yield from VIs. Random Forest Regression was utilized as a feature selection method to choose the best combination of variables for different stages and to interpret the relationships between VIs and corn leaf N concentration and grain yield. The Canopy Chlorophyll Content Index (SCCCI) and Red-edge Ratio Vegetation Index (RERVI) were selected as the most efficient VIs in leaf N estimation and SCCCI, Red-edge chlorophyll index (CIRE), RERVI, Soil Adjusted Vegetation Index (SAVI), and Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) were chosen as the most effective VIs in predicting corn grain yield. The results derived from using a red-edge multispectral camera showed that the SCCCI was the most proper index for predicting yield at most of the phenological stages and Gradient Boosting was the best-fitted model to estimate leaf N% with an 80% coefficient of determination. Using a Crop Circle ACS-430 showed that the Support Vector Regression (SVR) model achieved the best performance measures than other models tested in the prediction of leaf N concentration.


Mississippi Corn Promotion Board