Physiological interpretation of a hyperspectral time series in a citrus orchard
Hyperspectral remote sensing for monitoring horticultural production systems requires the understanding of how plant physiology, canopy structure, management and solar elevation affect the retrieved canopy reflectance during different stages of the phenological cycle. Hence, the objective of this study was to set up and to interpret a hyperspectral time series for a mature and healthy citrus orchard in the Western Cape province of South Africa considering these effects. Based on the remotely sensed data, biophysical parameters at the canopy level were derived and related to known observed physiological and phenological changes at the leaf level and to orchard management. Fractions of mature fruit, flowers, and sunburnt leaves were considered, and indices related to canopy structure chlorophyll content and canopy water status were calculated. Results revealed small cover fractions of mature fruit, flowers and sunburnt leaves of respectively 2.1%, 3.1% and 7.0%, but the high spectral contrast between flowers and leaves allowed a successful classification of flowering intensity. Furthermore, it was shown that canopy level time series of vegetation indices were sensitive to changes in solar elevation and soil reflectance which could be reduced by applying an empirical soil line correction for the most affected indices. Most trends in vegetation indices at the canopy level could be explained by a combination of changes at the leaf level (chlorophyll, carotenoids, dry matter), changes in canopy structure (leaf area index and leaf angle distribution) and changes in cover fractions of vegetative flushes, flowers and sunburnt leaves. The transformed chlorophyll absorption ratio index over the optimised soil adjusted vegetation index (MCARI/OSAVI) was best related to leaf level trends in chlorophyll content. Seasonal changes in the photochemical reflectance index (PRI) were linked to inverse changes in the carotenoid-to-chlorophyll ratio. Canopy structure indices (the modified triangular vegetation index or MTVI2 and the standardized leaf area index determining index or sLAIDI) were sensitive to changes in leaf area index, average leaf angle as well to management interactions (pruning and harvest). Canopy water status was highly impacted during the spring flush due to expanding leaves that concealed trends in the underlying mature leaves. Seasonal trends in soil and weeds reflectance were related to changes in volumetric soil water content and to the earlier and reduced growth period of non-irrigated weeds. © 2011 Elsevier B.V.