Predicting Crop Yield Using Crop Models and High-Resolution Remote Sensing Technologies

  • Matteo Giuseppe Ziliani

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


By 2050, food consumption and agricultural water use will increase as a result of a global population that is projected to reach 9 billion people. To address this food and water security challenge, there has been increased attention towards the concept of sustainable agriculture, which has a broad aim of securing food and water resources while preserving the environment for future generations. An element of this is the use of precision agriculture, which is designed to provide the right inputs, at the right time and in the right place. In order to optimize nutrient application, water intakes, and the profitability of agricultural areas, it is necessary to improve our understating and predictability of agricultural systems at high spatio-temporal scales. The underlying goal of the research presented herein is to advance the monitoring of croplands and crop yield through high-resolution satellite data. In addressing this, we explore the utility of daily CubeSat imagery to produce the highest spatial resolution (3 m) estimates of leaf area index and crop water use ever retrieved from space, providing an enhanced capacity to provide new insights into precision agriculture. The novel insights on crop health and conditions derived from CubeSat data are combined with the predictive ability of crop models, with the aim of improving crop yield predictions. To explore the latter, a sensitivity analysis-linked Bayesian inference framework was developed, offering a tool for calibrating crop models while simultaneously quantifying the uncertainty in input parameters. The effect of integrating higher spatio-temporal resolution data in crop models was tested by developing an approach that assimilates CubeSat imagery into a crop model for early season yield prediction at the within-field scale. In addition to satellite data, the utility of even higher spatial resolution products from unmanned aerial vehicles was also examined in the last section of the thesis, where future research avenues are outlined. Here, an assessment of crop height is presented, which is linked to field biomass through the use of structure from motion techniques. These results offer further insights into small-scale field variabilities from an on-demand basis, and represent the cutting-edge of precision agricultural advances.
Date of AwardJan 2022
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Biological, Environmental Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorMatthew McCabe (Supervisor)


  • Crop Yield Prediction
  • Crop Modeling
  • CubeSat
  • Data Assimilation
  • LAI

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