Estimating evapotranspiration and drought stress with ground-based thermal remote sensing in agriculture: A review

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Journal Article
Journal of Experimental Botany, 2012, 63 (13), pp. 4671 - 4712
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As evaporation of water is an energy-demanding process, increasing evapotranspiration rates decrease the surface temperature (Ts) of leaves and plants. Based on this principle, ground-based thermal remote sensing has become one of the most important methods for estimating evapotranspiration and drought stress and for irrigation. This paper reviews its application in agriculture. The review consists of four parts. First, the basics of thermal remote sensing are briefly reviewed. Second, the theoretical relation between Ts and the sensible and latent heat flux is elaborated. A modelling approach was used to evaluate the effect of weather conditions and leaf or vegetation properties on leaf and canopy temperature. Ts increases with increasing air temperature and incoming radiation and with decreasing wind speed and relative humidity. At the leaf level, the leaf angle and leaf dimension have a large influence on Ts; at the vegetation level, Ts is strongly impacted by the roughness length; hence, by canopy height and structure. In the third part, an overview of the different ground-based thermal remote sensing techniques and approaches used to estimate drought stress or evapotranspiration in agriculture is provided. Among other methods, stress time, stress degree day, crop water stress index (CWSI), and stomatal conductance index are discussed. The theoretical models are used to evaluate the performance and sensitivity of the most important methods, corroborating the literature data. In the fourth and final part, a critical view on the future and remaining challenges of ground-based thermal remote sensing is presented. © 2012 The Author.
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