Year of Publication


Document Type





Crop Science

First Advisor

Charles T. Dougherty


The site-specific management of alfalfa has not been well-evaluated, despite the economic importance of this crop. The objectives of this work were to i) characterize the effects of soil moisture deficits on alfalfa and alfalfa yield components and ii) evaluate the use of canopy reflectance patterns in measuring treatment-induced differences in alfalfa yield. A randomized complete block design with five replicates of subsurface drip irrigation (SDI) and rainfed treatments of alfalfa was established at the University of Kentucky Animal Research Center in 2003. Potassium, as KCl, was broadcast on split-plots on 1 October 2004 at 0, 112, 336, and 448 kg K2O ha-1. In the drought year of 2005, five harvests (H1 - H5) were taken from each split-plot and from four locations within each SDI and rainfed plot. One day prior to each harvest, canopy reflectance was recorded in each plot. Alfalfa yield, yield components, and leaf area index (LAI) were determined. In 2005, dry matter yields in two harvests and for the seasonal total were increased (Pandlt;0.05) by SDI, but SDI did not affect crown density. Herbage yield was strongly associated with yield components but yields were most accurately estimated from LAI. Canopy reflectance within blue (450 nm), red (660 nm) and NIR bands were related to LAI, yield components, and yield of alfalfa and exhibited low variance (cv andlt; 15%) within narrow ( 0.125 Mg ha-1) yield ranges. Red-based Normalized Difference Vegetation Indices (NDVIs) and Wide Dynamic Range Vegetation Indices (WDRVIs) were better than blue-based VIs for the estimation of LAI, yield components, and yield. Decreasing the influence of NIR reflectance in VIs by use of a scalar (0.1, 0.05, or 0.01) expanded the range of WDRVI-alfalfa yield functions. These results indicate that VIs may be used to estimate LAI and dry matter yield of alfalfa within VI-specific boundaries.