Uncovering Abiotic Stress in Rain-Fed Wheat Crop through UAV based Multi-Sensor Imagery Fusion

Project Description

Wheat holds a dominant position as the primary staple food crop in Pakistan, encompassing a vast cultivation area of over 9 million hectares, which exceeds the combined cultivation area of other significant crops, including rice, maize, cotton, and sugarcane. Notably, a substantial proportion of approximately 33% of the wheat production in Pakistan occurs in rain-fed areas, surpassing the cultivation of any other crop in such regions. Nevertheless, despite its agricultural importance, the overall wheat production in the country fails to meet the targeted levels, primarily due to various constraints. The productivity of wheat in rain-fed regions is particularly susceptible to climatic conditions, which are subject to continuous fluctuations. Given its prominence as the major crop cultivated in these areas, wheat faces heightened vulnerability to the adverse impacts of such changing climatic patterns. Consequently, the potential consequences include food insecurity, underscoring the significance of addressing and mitigating these challenges.

The productivity of wheat crops in rain-fed areas is significantly influenced by climatic factors. It is crucial to quantitatively assess the morphological and physical alterations induced in the crop as a result of important climatic parameters, such as temperature and rainfall, in order to understand the levels of abiotic stress experienced by the plants. Consequently, the primary motivation behind this research project is to investigate and identify abiotic stresses, including drought, heat stress, waterlogging, and nutrient imbalances, in rain-fed wheat crops. To achieve this objective, the proposed project aims to integrate data acquired from two sensors, namely multi-spectral and thermal sensors, mounted on an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) platform. By fusing the imagery obtained from these sensors, the study seeks to discern and analyze the abiotic stress levels experienced by the rain-fed wheat crop. The ultimate goal of this research endeavor is to identify and screen a genotype of wheat that exhibits tolerance to abiotic stresses, particularly suited for the rain-fed regions of Pakistan.

The initial phase of the project entails the acquisition of multi-spectral and thermal imagery utilizing an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) over winter wheat fields at the National Agricultural Research Center (NARC). In addition to imagery, agro-meteorological data will be gathered from weather stations installed at the field site. Subsequently, the acquired data will undergo a series of pre-processing steps prior to its utilization for analysis. Following data acquisition, the identification, and extraction of canopy pixels from the imagery will be carried out utilizing various spectral indices, such as the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) and Enhanced Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (ENDVI). Additionally, pertinent indices for abiotic stress assessment will be computed. These indices will then be subjected to statistical analysis to investigate the crop's response and establish correlations with environmental parameters. To validate the effectiveness of our analysis, ground data collected during the data acquisition phase will be utilized.

Overall, this study aims to employ UAV-based multi-spectral and thermal imagery to gather data on the winter wheat crop at NARC. The subsequent analysis, which involves the extraction of canopy pixels and the computation of relevant spectral indices, will provide insights into the crop's response to environmental factors. By statistically analyzing these indices and correlating them with environmental parameters, this study seeks to enhance our understanding of the crop's behavior. Furthermore, the validation of our analysis through comparison with ground data will ensure the accuracy and reliability of the results obtained.

Project Partners

  • NUST – National University of Science and Technology, Islamabad, Pakistan

Funded by

funded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) from funds of the Federal Foreign Office (German: Auswärtiges Amt, AA)