Skip to Main content Skip to Navigation
Journal articles

Using UAV Borne, Multi-Spectral Imaging for the Field Phenotyping of Shoot Biomass, Leaf Area Index and Height of West African Sorghum Varieties under Two Contrasted Water Conditions

Abstract : Meeting food demand for the growing population will require an increase to crop production despite climate changes and, more particularly, severe drought episodes. Sorghum is one of the cereals most adapted to drought that feed millions of people around the world. Valorizing its genetic diversity for crop improvement can benefit from extensive phenotyping. The current methods to evaluate plant biomass, leaves area and plants height involve destructive sampling and are not practical in breeding. Phenotyping relying on drone based imagery is a powerful approach in this context. The objective of this study was to develop and validate a high throughput field phenotyping method of sorghum growth traits under contrasted water conditions relying on drone based imagery. Experiments were conducted in Bambey (Senegal) in 2018 and 2019, to test the ability of multi-spectral sensing technologies on-board a UAV platform to calculate various vegetation indices to estimate plants characteristics. In total, ten (10) contrasted varieties of West African sorghum collection were selected and arranged in a randomized complete block design with three (3) replicates and two (2) water treatments (well-watered and drought stress). This study focused on plant biomass, leaf area index (LAI) and the plant height that were measured weekly from emergence to maturity. Drone flights were performed just before each destructive sampling and images were taken by multi-spectral and visible cameras. UAV-derived vegetation indices exhibited their capacity of estimating LAI and biomass in the 2018 calibration data set, in particular: normalized difference vegetative index (NDVI), corrected transformed vegetation index (CTVI), seconded modified soil-adjusted vegetation index (MSAVI2), green normalize difference vegetation index (GNDVI), and simple ratio (SR) (r2 of 0.8 and 0.6 for LAI and biomass, respectively). Developed models were validated with 2019 data, showing a good performance (r2 of 0.92 and 0.91 for LAI and biomass accordingly). Results were also promising regarding plant height estimation (RMSE = 9.88 cm). Regression plots between the image-based estimation and the measured plant height showed a r2 of 0.83. The validation results were similar between water treatments. This study is the first successful application of drone based imagery for phenotyping sorghum growth and development in a West African context characterized by severe drought occurrence. The developed approach could be used as a decision support tool for breeding programs and as a tool to increase the throughput of sorghum genetic diversity characterization for adaptive traits.
Document type :
Journal articles
Complete list of metadata
Contributor : Suzette Astruc <>
Submitted on : Monday, June 14, 2021 - 10:04:36 AM
Last modification on : Thursday, July 8, 2021 - 11:48:10 AM


Publisher files allowed on an open archive


Distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License



Boubacar Gano, Joseph Sékou B. Dembele, Adama Ndour, Delphine Luquet, Gregory Beurier, et al.. Using UAV Borne, Multi-Spectral Imaging for the Field Phenotyping of Shoot Biomass, Leaf Area Index and Height of West African Sorghum Varieties under Two Contrasted Water Conditions. Agronomy, MDPI, 2021, 11 (5), ⟨10.3390/agronomy11050850⟩. ⟨hal-03259364⟩



Record views


Files downloads