New publication - Effects of laser scanner quality and tractor speed to characterise apple tree canopies

Precision orchard management requires non-destructive sensor technologies to identify key sources of variation in apple yield and quality so operations such as fruit thinning, root-pruning as well as harvesting can be better targeted and optimised. We compared the data quality of two light detection and ranging (LiDAR) scanners to assess their ability to estimate the volume of ‘Braeburn’ apple trees. Scanner one was a high-quality tractor-mounted LiDAR (SICK, LDMRS 400001, Düsseldorf, Germany) and the second system consisted of two lower-cost SICK LiDAR sensors fitted on a commercial orchard sprayer. To compare the two scanner systems, two tree row sections with different growth vigour were created by targeted root pruning to reduce annual shoot growth. LiDAR scans and reference assessments were made at the end of the growing season. In addition, LiDAR data were obtained at two tractor speeds: 1.5 and 7.0 km/h (standard spraying speed). Results show key canopy features like the beginning/end of rows or large gaps can be detected with the lower-cost sensors. However, tractor speed had a major effect on data quality. At 1.5 km/h, alpha-shaped tree volumes of the high-quality LiDAR show a high correlation (R2 = 0.84) with the reference assessments, whereas the data quality of the lower-cost sensors was not high enough to represent the tree volume with the alpha-shape algorithm (R2 = 0.09). Moreover, this work raises the question of how precise a sensor-based tree volume needs to be determined to describe heterogeneity in an orchard. Specifically, how to best match sensor data to manual methods of canopy measurement and allow sensor data to be used for multiple applications.

Our publication ‘Effects of laser scanner quality and tractor speed to characterise apple tree canopies’ by Siefen et al. 2023 is accessible using the following link:

This work was supported by the Horticulture Science Department of the University of Bonn and is in collaboration with the Kompetenzzentrum Obstbau Bodensee in Bavendorf.

Reference: Siefen, N., McCormick, R.J., Vogel, A.M., Biegert, K., 2023. Effects of laser scanner quality and tractor speed to characterise apple tree canopies. Smart Agricultural Technology 100173.