Current methods of making crop cover estimates are time-consuming and tend to be highly variable. A low-cost, digital, red/near-infrared band ratioing camera (Dycam Inc., Chatsworth, Calif.) and accompanying software (S. Heinold, Woodland Hills, Calif.) were evaluated for estimating crop cover. The camera was tested using a set of images having leaf areas of known sizes with different crop, soil, and lighting conditions. In the field, camera-based crop cover estimates were compared to light bar measured estimates. Results indicate that the camera and image analysis software are capable of estimating percent crop cover over a range of soil, crop, and lighting environments. Camera-based crop cover estimates were highly correlated with light bar estimates (tomato r2 = 0.96, cotton r2 = 0.98). Under the conditions tested, the camera appears to be a useful tool for monitoring crop growth in the field.
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