Optimize Crop Management
Canopy Density Maps for Orchards, Groves, and Vineyards
Why is canopy density important?
Orchardists spend a lot of time and money managing the canopies of their trees. This is not surprising. In the case of apples, canopy density has a big impact on the quality of the fruits: If the canopy is too dense, the fruit color will be insufficient. On the other hand, if a canopy is too thin, apples get sunburnt. Moreover, canopy density impacts fruit set as well. Non-optimal canopy density causes reduced yield and poor quality, while the operating costs stay the same.
There is an excellent paper by Wünsche and Lakso that describes the relations between apple yield and light interception by the spur and extension shoot canopies. Light interception and canopy density are closely correlated.(Click here to download the paper).
Until now, no ground based instrument has been available that can quantify the canopy density for an entire orchard or grove. However, with remote sensing it is possible to measure leaf area and light interception for large areas. Using aerial imagery collected by aircraft or satellite, we can measure canopy density for each square foot of an orchard.
The canopy density map can be used to delineate problem areas, as well as to test and monitor the efficacy of management practices. With time, a more homogenous orchard or grove will result with a canopy close to the opimal level. This will increase your returns on invested time and money.
What does a canopy density map show and what can it be used for?Have the canopy density maps been tested?
The canopy density maps show the spatial variability of canopy density across an orchard or grove. The canopy density index is a good indicator of the green leaf area index (LAI) of the trees. We can produce maps showing canopy density either at the pixel or at the zone level. The Canopy Density Pixel Map is very detailed. It shows canopy density for squares that are smaller than 2 by 2 feet. We are filtering out all the other plants growing between the trees so that the maps depict the tree canopy only. The maps are best viewed on a handheld computer equipped with a GPS. The canopy density pixel map is most suitable to detect and remediate problems at the tree level.
- Growth regulator (e.g., Apogee) application
The leaf area of trees is very sensitive to the growing conditions, such as rooting depth, water, and nutrient availability. The Canopy Density Zone Map is especially suitable to detect and delineate problem areas caused by the inherent spatial variability of soil properties such as water holding capacity, CEC, pH, texture, organic matter content, etc.
- Monitoring fertility status of trees (tissue sampling)
- Site-specific fertilizer applications
- Site-specific irrigation
- Monitoring the efficacy of the irrigation system
- Site-specific selection of root-stock
- Harvest management (Apples growing in zones of low canopy density tend to be ready for harvest earlier)
The canopy density maps have been developed in close collaboration with the Center for Precision Agricultural Systems (CPAS) at Washington State University, the Tree Fruit Commission of Washington and tree fruit growers. Results have been presented at the 98th Annual Meeting of the Washington State Horticultural Association in 2002 and at the Annual Meeting of the American Society of Agronomy in 2003. The Tree Fruit Commission published a roadmap that outlines how the new technologies such as remote sensing will help growers reduce cost and increase yield and quality.
- Charlie de La Chapelle, Owner of 7 C's Orchards, Sunnyside, WA: "The canopy density maps are great. We have used them for summer pruning. We will use them for site-specific fertilizer applications as well."
- David Allan, Vice President/Orchard Operations, Allan Bros., Inc., Naches, WA: "To maximize the production of high quality apples, we must have uniform canopies. CropMaps gives us a picture of the uniformity of the canopy densities of our orchards. It may take some time to gain the necessary experience to fully utilize this technology."
What kind of trees can the canopy density maps be used for?
We can generate canopy density maps for all fruit and nut trees (almonds, apples, cherries, citrus, olives, peaches, pears, plums, etc). Canopy density maps have also been used to delineate harvest management zones for grapes. We use different remote sensing data sources, depending on the application and tree sizes.
We will gladly assist you with an evaluation to find out how you can make best use of our canopy density maps.
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