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Data from: LiDAR and RGB-image analysis to predict hairy vetch biomass in breeding nurseries

Cite this dataset

Wiering, Nicholas; Ehlke, Nancy Jo; Sheaffer, Craig (2019). Data from: LiDAR and RGB-image analysis to predict hairy vetch biomass in breeding nurseries [Dataset]. Dryad.


Hairy vetch is a fall seeded annual legume that can be used as a forage and cover crop. As a cover crop, it can provide numerous ecosystem services, such as soil erosion reduction, carbon sequestration, and pollinator habitat, but also agronomic services such as weed suppression and N fixation via soil rhizobium species. To improve cover crop function, traits such as biomass production are especially relevant, making it a first priority trait for cover crop breeders. However, direct phenotypic methods for biomass production are destructive. Breeders have thus relied on subjective, visual scoring methods for biomass, which are generally correlative, but are not quantitative or absolute. In this study, we evaluated two low-cost remote sensing tools, LiDAR and RGB-image analysis, for their effectiveness at predicting biomass in vivo. We evaluated these tools in two common forage breeding scenarios, spaced-plant and sward-plot nurseries, at three Minnesota locations following the winter of 2016/2017. Ground cover, determined from RGB image binarization using the Canopeo application, had a significant and linear relationship with above-ground biomass in spaced-plants (R2=0.93), and sward-plots (R2=0.89). Once the image area became saturated with vegetative pixels, a near-exponential relationship with biomass would occur. Because of the low-growth habit of hairy vetch, RGB image analysis was more appropriate at lower plant densities, such as spaced-plant nurseries. LiDAR measures of sward-plot height were also linearly and strongly related to dry-matter biomass in sward-plots (R2=0.80). The dimensionality of LiDAR sensing gave it greater predictive ability at higher plant densities, where RGB analysis could not detect vertical increases in biomass production. Lastly, we combined RGB and LiDAR data to predict sward-plot biomass in a multiple mixed-effect regression model. By doing so, we were able to explain more biomass variation than with use of either phenotypic tool as a single predictor (R2=0.94).

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