Spectral indexes for identification of nitrogen deficiency in maize

<div><p>ABSTRACT Image analysis can provide information extracted from the leaves of crops, and contribute to early identification of nutrient deficiency. The objective of this study was to recognize nutritional nitrogen (N) patterns in maize plants, at the V4 and V7 stages, using digital image analysis based on spectral indexes. The experiment was carried out in a greenhouse under hydroponic cultivation. Treatments consisted of a completely randomized design, in a 4 × 2 factorial arrangement, with four replications. The factors were constituted by the doses of N (0; 3.0; 6.0 e 15 mmol L-1) combined at V4 and V7. In each stage, digital images were taken of leaf blades, with subsequent chemical composition and image analysis. For image recognition and classification, a vector of characteristics based on the spectral indexes was used as follows: excess of green, normalized red, normalized green and red-green ratio, and the combination among them. Additionally, extracted blocks of 9 × 9, 20 × 20 and 40 × 40 pixels on original images were used. The N content in the leaf blade, the dry mass of the plants and the external critical level of N in the nutrient solution were determined for result validation, based on 90% dry matter production. Maximum the global accuracy rate for N patterns was 80 and 93% at V4 and V7, respectively. The use of combined spectral indexes provided better classification performance, and the 9 × 9 pixel image block appeared more adequate for differentiation among the doses of N.</p></div>