Evaluation of RGB and Multispectral Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Imagery for High-Throughput Phenotyping and Yield Prediction in Barley Breeding
With advances in plant genomics, plant phenotyping has become a new bottleneck in plant breeding and the need for reliable high-throughput plant phenotyping techniques has emerged. In the face of future climatic challenges, it does not seem appropriate to continue to solely select for grain yield and a few agronomically important traits. Therefore, new sensor-based high-throughput phenotyping has been increasingly used in plant breeding research, with the potential to provide non-destructive, objective and continuous plant characterization that reveals the formation of the final grain yield and provides insights into the physiology of the plant during the growth phase. In this context, we present the comparison of two sensor systems, Red-Green-Blue (RGB) and multispectral cameras, attached to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), and investigate their suitability for yield prediction using different modelling approaches in a segregating barley introgression population at three environments with weekly data collection during the entire vegetation period. In addition to vegetation indices, morphological traits such as canopy height, vegetation cover and growth dynamics traits were used for yield prediction. Repeatability analyses and genotype association studies of sensor-based traits were compared with reference values from ground-based phenotyping to test the use of conventional and new traits for barley breeding. The relative height estimation of the canopy by UAV achieved high precision (up to r = 0.93) and repeatability (up to R2 = 0.98). In addition, we found a great overlap of detected significant genotypes between the reference heights and sensor-based heights. The yield prediction accuracy of both sensor systems was at the same level and reached a maximum prediction accuracy of r2 = 0.82 with a continuous increase in precision throughout the entire vegetation period. Due to the lower costs and the consumer-friendly handling of image acquisition and processing, the RGB imagery seems to be more suitable for yield prediction in this study.