Fertilizer requirements of crops using imaging

Lower fertilizer application rates can influence crop quality while higher rates can pose health-risk issues in humans when consumed (ex: spinach and lettuce) and increase plant susceptibility to pests.  Therefore, plants should be supplied with fertilizer in the amounts they need to grow optimally. We are investigating methods to fertilize plants based on the plant nutrient demand.  Our approach is to non-invasively measure crop growth rate using RGB imaging and supply nutrients that match the crop growth rate.  We are currently using this approach for tomato and lettuce.  Using imaging we can estimate crop dry weight on a daily basis.  This can be used to predict the crop growth rates and the amount of nutrients needed by the plant to sustain the current growth.  Below is an example of imaging work done on tomato and relation between image based metric and crop dry weight.  We are developing simple camera and Lysimetry based system that can capture crop growth rate and crop water use.  The information is then fed into an algorithm which can predict required fertilizer rate.

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