Munoz, J. D., A. O. Finley, R. Gehl, and S. Kravchenko. 2010. Nonlinear hierarchical models for predicting cover crop biomass using Normalized Difference Vegetation Index. Remote Sensing of Environment 114:2833-2840.
Incorporating cover crops into agricultural systems can improve soil structural properties, increase nutrient availability, reduce erosion and loss of agrochemicals, and suppress weeds. These benefits are a function of the amount of cover crop biomass that enters the soil. The ability to easily and inexpensively quantify the spatial variability of cover crop biomass is needed to better understand and predict its potential as an input to agricultural systems. Here, we explore the use of Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) as a source of information for improving accuracy and precision of cover crop biomass prediction. We focus on developing models that account for biomass variability within and among fields. These models are used to produce digital data layers of predicted biomass and associated uncertainty. We propose hierarchical nonlinear models with field random effects and a residual variance function to accommodate strong heteroscedasticity. These models are motivated using aboveground biomass of red clover (Trifolium pratense L.) measured on three different dates in five fields in southwest Michigan. Model adequacy was assessed using the Deviance Information Criterion. Given this criterion, the “best” fitting model included field effects and a polynomial function to account for non-constant residual variance. Importantly, we demonstrate that accounting for heteroscedasticity in the model fitting is critical for capturing uncertainty in subsequent biomass prediction.
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