Hyperspectral imaging is an emerging noninvasive technology with the potential for early nutrient stress detection in plants prior to visible symptoms. This study evaluated hyperspectral imaging for early identification of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (NPK) deficiencies across three greenhouse-grown industrial hemp plant cultivars (Cannabis sativa L.).

Visible and near-infra-red spectral data (380-1022 nm) were acquired from hemp samples subjected to controlled NPK stresses at multiple developmental time points using a benchtop hyperspectral camera. Robust principal component analysis was developed for the effective screening of spectral outliers.

Partial least squares discriminant analysis (PLS-DA) and support vector machines (SVM) were developed and optimized to classify nutrient deficiencies using key wavelengths selected by variable importance in projection (VIP) and interval partial least squares (iPLS). The 16-wavelength iPLS-C-SVM model achieved the highest precision of 0.75 to 1 on the test dataset.

Key wavelengths for effective nutrient deficiency detection spanned the visible range, underscoring the hyperspectral imaging sensitivity to early changes in leaf pigment levels prior to any visible symptom development. The emergence of wavelengths related to chlorophyll, carotenoid, and anthocyanin absorption as optimal for classification highlights the technology's capacity to detect subtle impending biochemical perturbations linked to emerging deficiencies. Identifying stress at this pre-visual stage could provide hemp producers with timely corrective action to mitigate losses in crop quality and yields.

Sanaeifar, Alireza & Yang, Ce & Min, An & Jones, Colin & Michaels, Thomas & Krueger, Quinton & Barnes, Robert & Velte, Toby. (2024). Noninvasive Early Detection of Nutrient Deficiencies in Greenhouse-Grown Industrial Hemp Using Hyperspectral Imaging. Remote Sensing. 16. 187. 10.3390/rs16010187.

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