The growing use of commercial unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and the need to adjust N fertilization rates in maize (Zea mays L.) currently constitute a key research issue. In this study, different multispectral vegetation indices (green-band and red-band based indices), SPAD and crop height (derived from a multispectral compact camera mounted on a UAV) were analysed to predict grain yield and determine whether an additional sidedress application of N fertilizer was required just before flowering. Seven different inorganic N rates (0, 100, 150, 200, 250, 300, 400 kg·N·ha−1), two different pig slurry manure rates (Ps) (150 or 250 kg·N·ha−1) and four different inorganic-organic N combinations (N100Ps150, N100Ps250, N200Ps150, N200Ps250) were applied to maize experimental plots. The spectral index that best explained final grain yield for the N treatments was the Wide Dynamic Range Vegetation Index (WDRVI). It identified a key threshold above/below 250–300 kg·N·ha−1. WDRVI, NDVI and crop height showed no significant response to extra N application at the economic optimum rate of fertilization (239.8 kg·N·ha−1), for which a grain yield of 16.12 Mg·ha−1 was obtained. This demonstrates their potential as yield predictors at V12 stage. Finally, a ranking of different vegetation indices and crop height is proposed to overcome the uncertainty associated with basing decisions on a single index.
Architecture, Civil Engineering, Surveying