Low-cost assessment of grain yield in durum wheat using RGB images
Jose A. Fernandez-Gallego, Shawn C. Kefauver*, Thomas Vatter, Nieves Aparicio Gutiérrez, María Teresa Nieto-Taladriz, José Luis Araus*
The pattern of photosynthetic area of the canopy throughout the crop cycle is an important factor for determining grain yield in wheat. This work proposes the use of zenithal RGB images of the canopy taken in natural light conditions to derive vegetation indices as a low-cost approach to predict grain yield. A set of 23 varieties of durum wheat was monitored in three growing conditions (support irrigation, rainfed and late planting) and two sites (Aranjuez and Valladolid, Spain), totaling 6 field trials. For each plot, digital RGB images were taken periodically from seedling emergence to late grain filling. RGB-based Green Area (GA), Greener Area (GGA), Normalized Green Red Difference Index (NGRDI), Triangular Greenness Index (TGI) and a novel photosynthetic area index based on the CIE L*u*v* colour space (u*v*A) were compared to handheld spectroradiometer Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) for reference. In the case of the irrigated and late planting trials, the best phenotypic predictions of grain yield were achieved with the vegetation indices measured during the last part of the crop cycle (i.e. grain filling). For the rainfed trials, the best phenotypic predictions were achieved with indices measured earlier (around heading). Among all the evaluated indices, the novel index performed the best. Considering the heritabilities of the evaluated RGB indices and their genetic correlations with grain yield, index-based predictions of grain yield were best in the early crop stages for both rainfed and irrigated conditions, while for late planting indices measured at different crop stages performed equally well.