Remotely-sensed assessment of the impact of century-old biochar on chicory crop growth using high-resolution UAV-based imagery
International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation
Cornelis, et al.. Remotelysensed assessment of the impact of century-old biochar on chicory crop growth using high-resolution UAV-based imagery. A B S T R A C T In recent years, special attention has been given to the long-term effects of biochar on the performance of agroecosystems owing to its potential for improving soil fertility, harvested crop yields, and aboveground biomass production. The present experiment was set up to identify the effects on soil-plant systems of biochar produced
... than 150 years ago in charcoal mound kiln sites in Wallonia (Belgium). Although the impacts of biochar on soil-plant systems are being increasingly discussed, a detailed monitoring of the crop dynamics throughout the growing season has not yet been well addressed. At present there is considerable interest in applying remote sensing for crop growth monitoring in order to improve sustainable agricultural practices. However, studies using high-resolution remote sensing data to focus on century-old biochar effects are not yet available. For the first time, the impacts of century-old biochar on crop growth were investigated at canopy level using highresolution airborne remote sensing data over a cultivated field. High-resolution RGB, multispectral and thermal sensors mounted on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) were used to generate high frequency remote sensing information on the crop dynamics. UAVs were flown over 11 century-old charcoal-enriched soil patches and the adjacent reference soils of a chicory field. We retrieved crucial crop parameters such as canopy cover, vegetation indices and crop water stress from the UAV imageries. In addition, our study also provides in-situ measurements of soil properties and crop traits. Both UAV-based RGB imagery and in-situ measurements demonstrated that the presence of century-old biochar significantly improved chicory canopy cover, with greater leaf lengths in biochar patches. Weighted difference vegetation index imagery showed a negative influence of biochar presence on plant greenness at the end of the growing season. Chicory crop stress was significantly increased by biochar presence, whereas the harvested crop yield was not affected. The main significant variations observed between reference and century-old biochar patches using in situ measurements of crop traits concerned leaf length. Hence, the output from the present study will be of great interest to help developing climate-smart agriculture practices allowing for adaptation and mitigation to climate.