Optical sensors for variable rate nitrogen application in dairy pastures


  • K. Wigley
  • J.L. Owens
  • J.A.K. Trethewey
  • D.C. Ekanayake
  • R.L. Roten
  • A. Werner




Reducing the amount of nitrogen (N) fertiliser applied to dairy pastures down to agronomically optimised levels would have positive economic and environmental results. The ability of commercially available optical sensors to estimate biomass yield and foliar-N uptake in pastures was investigated. Vegetative indices (Simple Ratio, SR; Water Index, WI; and Normalised Difference Vegetation Index, NDVI) from two active optical reflectance sensors (N-Sensor, Yara; and Greenseeker, Trimble) were compared with manually measured biomass and N-uptake in above-ground foliage. There were three measurements over time, from pastures that had received different N fertiliser applications rates (0, 10, 20, 40 and 80 kg N/ha). It was found that the sensors were able to detect differences in biomass and foliar N-uptake following defoliation of grazed pastures. The tested optical sensors have the potential to inform a real-time variable rate fertiliser application system. Keywords: pasture, nitrogen, optical sensors


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How to Cite

Wigley, K., Owens, J., Trethewey, J., Ekanayake, D., Roten, R., & Werner, A. (2017). Optical sensors for variable rate nitrogen application in dairy pastures. Journal of New Zealand Grasslands, 79, 223–227. https://doi.org/10.33584/jnzg.2017.79.533



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