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On using the precise sensor

  • E. Pérez-Fernández (a1), M. J. Aitkenhead (a1), C. A. Shand (a1) and A. H. J. Robertson (a1)

Abstract

In precision agriculture, the selection and use of appropriate sensors determine the type and quality of information that will feed decision-support models. A wide variety of sensors, spectral ranges, data collection and processing approaches are used, sometimes leading to confusion. Whether in transmission or reflectance mode, multispectral or hyperspectral, laboratory or field-based or even satellite-borne, in order to achieve meaningful and accurate measurements it is essential to have a clear understanding of which part of the electromagnetic spectrum the sensors relate to and how the corresponding radiation interacts with the substrate (e.g. soils, crops, livestock products). Sensors in the visible range (390-700 nm) use colour to identify certain properties of the substrate (e.g. chlorophyll and pigments in crops, organic matter contents in soil) and can be used to detect and quantify colour changes that could, in turn, be correlated with changes in those properties. Alternatively, radiation in the near (NIR, 750-2500 nm) and mid infrared (MIR, 2500-25 000 nm) interacts with the molecular bonds that constitute organic and inorganic matter and, therefore, sensors with detectors in these ranges provide different but interrelated information on the chemical composition of the substrate. Shorter wavelength radiation in the form of X-Rays (0.1-10 nm) induces fluorescence in the substrate and XRF sensors provide elemental atomic information that is highly applicable to the study of soils, sediments and fluids. At the James Hutton Institute, we have expertise in the use of all these types of sensors and are developing practical applications based on a thorough understanding of the processes involved. In this paper we provide an overview of the capabilities and applications of the different sensors used in precision agriculture, not only with a theoretical understanding, but also with an awareness of the practicalities involved.

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