Spatial modelling of weeds and crop growth in century-old charcoal kiln sites with integration of high and very high resolution remote sensing

Drone over the study field

Drone over the study field


This project called as “Char” is conducted within three faculties of the University of Liege in Belgium including Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech, Sciences, and Engineering, and in close collaboration with the Centre for Environmental Sciences (Earth and Life Institute; UCLouvain).

Website of CHAR project

This research is in line with the global environmental, agronomical and societal challenges dealing with soil fertility and environmental resilience. The proposed project aims to investigate the responses of crop systems to the variations of pedological and hydrodynamic soil properties induced by charcoal accumulation over more than 150 years as an analogue to biochar (a carbon rich solid phase produced by pyrolysis) accumulation.

Three PhD candidates work on the same calibration field close to Gembloux with different techniques to investigate the long-term response of the soil-plant system to charcoal enrichment. Two candidates, from Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech, study the soil processes controlling nutrient cycling through physico-chemical analysis of the soil-plant system and the changes in the hydrodynamic behaviour of the soil using geophysical methods.

I, at Arlon Campus Environnement, address the monitoring and assessment of the crop growth (biomass and yield) through crop growth models and remote sensing techniques. My research specifically focuses on spatial modelling of weeds and crop growth in century-old charcoal kiln sites with integration of high and very high resolution remote sensing data. Two Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) including DJI Phantom 4 Pro (RGB sensor) and DJI Matrice100 (which carries multispectral and thermal sensors simultaneously) are using to monitor the crop developments on a detailed scale from the year 2018 to 2022.

In addition, the Sentinel-2 products are analyzed in collaboration with UCL to investigate the added values of drone imagery and possible enhancements regarding the Sentinel-2 spectral bands. Therefore, the outcomes from high-resolution drone imagery are compared with the satellite outputs to investigate the performances of the spectral bands (dedicated to the atmospheric perturbation), design appropriate indices and the associated analysis to highlight the spatio-temporal heterogeneity of the crop development (fCover, LAI, fAPAR, Chlorophyll content) and its biomass productivity. Furthermore, the identified patterns are compared with the historic patterns of the previous growing seasons obtained from the SPOT4/5, Landsat-8 and Sentinel-2 to evaluate the inter-annual variability.