Thesis subject

MSc thesis topic: Mapping crop water stress at different crop growth stages

Water use efficiency is of particular significance to precision agriculture. Earlier studies have shown that crop canopy temperature can be helpful for determining crop water status at field and regional scales and can consequently contribute to optimizing agricultural water use. Various methods have been explored for deriving accurate canopy temperature from UAV-based miniaturized thermal cameras. Crop water stress levels can be monitored by using temperature-based crop water stress indicators. Thus, it is expected that thermal imaging techniques can detect subtle changes in crop water stress levels within fields.

A precondition for precision irrigation is to characterize the spatial
variability of water status within crop fields. This thesis will deal with the
assessment of water stress indicators’ performance in detecting changes in the
spatial distribution of crop water stress between crucial periods during a
growing season within fields. The mapping outputs on the key dates will be
compared with the on-site experimental data for validation. For the field
campaigns at different crop growth stages, the student will join in collecting
UAV- and ground-based thermal data.

Relevance to research/projects

  • Netherlands Plant Eco-phenotyping Centre (NPEC)


  • To quantify the crop water stress at different crop growth stages based on land surface temperature data derived from a UAV-based thermal camera
  • To explore the usability of UAV-derived crop water stress indices over a growing season through comparison to ground-based observations


  • Ramírez-Cuesta, J. M., Ortuño, M. F., Gonzalez-Dugo, V., Zarco-Tejada, P. J., Parra, M., Rubio-Asensio, J. S., & Intrigliolo, D. S. (2022). Assessment of peach trees water status and leaf gas exchange using on-the-ground versus airborne-based thermal imagery. Agricultural Water Management, 267, 107628.
  • Bellvert, J., Zarco-Tejada, P. J., Girona, J., & Fereres, E. J. P. A. (2014). Mapping crop water stress index in a ‘Pinot-noir’vineyard: comparing ground measurements with thermal remote sensing imagery from an unmanned aerial vehicle. Precision agriculture, 15(4), 361-376.
  • Maes, W. H., & Steppe, K. (2012). Estimating evapotranspiration and drought stress with ground-based thermal remote sensing in agriculture: a review. Journal of Experimental Botany, 63(13), 4671-4712.


  • Interested in UAV-based research
  • Enthusiast of field campaigns within crop fields
  • Willing to learn new tools for processing thermal data

Theme(s): Sensing & measuring