Spatial variability in commercial orange groves. Part 1: canopy volume and height
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Characterizing crop spatial variability is crucial for estimating the opportunities for site-specific management practices. In the context of tree crops, ranging sensor technology has been developed to assess tree canopy geometry and control real-time variable rate application of plant protection products and fertilizers. The objective of this study was to characterize the variability of canopy geometry attributes in commercial orange groves in Brazil and therefore estimate the potential impact of sensor-based site-specific management. Using a mobile terrestrial laser scanner, canopy volume and canopy height were measured in 0.25 m length transversal sections along the rows across five large scale commercial orange groves in São Paulo, Brazil. The coefficient of variation of canopy volume ranged from 30 to 40%. Canopy height was less variable, but closely related to canopy volume. Histograms of canopy volume and height were usually negatively skewed indicating regions of the groves with smaller plants and punctual plant resets. In scenarios where input application rates followed canopy volume variability, input savings were around 40% compared to constant rates based on the maximum canopy volume. Maps of canopy geometry derived from mobile terrestrial laser scanning revealed significant canopy spatial variability, suggesting that the groves would benefit from strategies based on management zones and other forms of site-specific management.