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© Thünen-Institut
[Translate to English:]
Institute of

AT Agricultural Technology


Contactless measurement methods for crop production

Heat image potatoes
© Thünen-Institut
Heat image potatoes

Contactless measurement methods for crop production

How can crop growth and crop stress be measured on the field? Will the future farmer be able to monitor the growth and state of his crop online from at home? We are working for a digital farming future. We are developing contactless measurement methods for crops on the field.

Background and Objective

Precise knowledge about crop state is an essential requirement for an optimal crop management and for a sustainable use of resources. The farmer would be able to optimize many decisions, if he had access to current and reliable information based on measurements and models. Such decisions may concern weed management, irrigation, plant protection, and the optimal harvest date. Our institute has substantial experience in contactless sensors, automatic image analysis, construction of mobile and stationary field measurement systems with connection to the internet, and in the use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS). With the help of these technical means, we want to increase and to improve the information base for the farmer's decisions and automatic production systems. In addition, also plant breeding and most experimental trials have high need of quantitative sensor based information.

Target Group

Our research first addresses the producers of agricultural machinery and of modern technical devices, as well as other service providers. They may decide how to integrate new measurement techniques in their products and services. Not only practical farmers, but also plant breeders and all persons involved in experimental trials will be the final user of these techniques.


Our practical work includes:

  • Development and construction of  field measurement and communication systems
  • Extensive calibration experiments in the lab and on the field
  • Integration of optical sensors on our octocopter "ThünoCopter"
  • Drone flights with the ThünoCopter
  • Contactless and destructive measurements of plants in the field
  • modeling based on measured crop data
  • Creation, calibration and test of software for automatic image analysis and for the processing of all sensor data
  • Deduction, processing and presentation of relevant information


Preliminary Results

First results confirmed the expected statisical relation between contactlessly measured crop parameters and yield data. Further experiments are needed  for validation and for evaluation of the potential of these methods.

Involved external Thünen-Partners


4.2008 - 12.2025

Publications on the project

  1. 0

    Schittenhelm S, Kraft M, Wittich K-P (2014) Performance of winter cereals grown on field-stored soil moisture only. Eur J Agron 52(Part B.):247-258, DOI:10.1016/j.eja.2013.08.010

  2. 1

    Kraft M, Neeland H, Riedel A (2013) Vergleich der Bestandstemperatur und des Ertrags von acht Winterweizensorten unter Trockenstress: Ergebnisse eines Versuchsjahres. Bornimer Agrartechn Ber 81:287-294

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