University of California

Determining the prevalence of certain cereal crop diseases by means of aerial photography


Robert N. Colwell

Author Affiliations

Robert N. Colwell was Associate Professor of Forestry and Associate Silviculturist in the Experiment Station, Berkeley; Chairman, National Research Council Subcommittee on Crop Geography and Vegetation Analysis.

Publication Information

Hilgardia 26(5):223-286. DOI:10.3733/hilg.v26n05p223. November 1956.

PDF of full article, Cite this article


Studies were conducted to determine the possibility of detecting and identifying various healthy and diseased cereal crops by means of aerial photographs, and of estimating disease severity.

The crops studied were wheat, oats, barley, and rye; the diseases were black stem rust and yellow dwarf virus.

Tests were conducted both on test plots artificially inoculated with disease and on open fields where the pathogen had entered by natural means.

Spectrophotometric analyses of light reflectance from healthy and diseased crops were made. These analyses permitted prediction of the photographic tones or colors with which the various crops would register on any film-filter combination. Four film-filter combinations were then selected as offering the best tone or color contrasts for the photographic identifications sought.

Results of the tests indicate that, on aerial photographs taken to proper specifications, and at the proper seasonal state of development of the host plant and pathogen, it is possible for a photo interpreter to recognize: (1) healthy wheat, oats, barley, and rye; (2) diseased wheat infested with black stem rust (Puccinia graminis tritici); (3) diseased oats infested with black stem rust (P. graminis avenae); and (4) diseased oats infested with yellow dwarf virus.

In some instances the photo interpreter, using only smallscale, black-and-white photographs, can detect disease infection centers early enough to permit effective control measures. Frequently, using large-scale, color photographs, he can also estimate disease severity and subsequent yield reduction quite accurately.

Literature Cited

American Society of Photogrammetry. Manual of photogrammetry. 1952. Menasha, Wisconsin: Banta Publishing Co. 875p.

Van Atta G. R. Filters for the separation of living and dead leaves in monochromatic photographs with a method for the determination of photographic filter factors. J Biol. Phot. Assoc. 1936. 4:177-91.

Babel A. Infrarot-photographie in Pflanzenschutz. Angew. Botan. 1935. 17:43-53.

Bawden F. C. Infrared photography and plant virus diseases. Nature. 1933. 132:168 (July). DOI: 10.1038/132168a0 [CrossRef]

Christensen J. J. Long distance dissemination of plant pathogens 1942. pp.78-87. In Aerobiology. Amer. Assoc. Adv. Sci. Pub. No. 17:

Clark Walter. Photography by infrared. 1946. New York: John Wiley and Sons, Inc. 472p. DOI: 10.4141/cjps88-117 [CrossRef]

Coleman H.S. Comparison of computed and experimental detection ranges of objects. Jour. Opt. Soc. Amer. 1948. 38(3):250 DOI: 10.1364/JOSA.38.000250 [CrossRef]

Colwell R. N. The estimation of ground conditions from aerial photographic interpretation of vegetation types. Photogrammetric Engineering. 1940. 12(2):151-61.

Colwell R. N. Aerial photographic interpretation of vegetation for military purposes. Photogrammetric Engineering. 1948. 14(4):472-81.

Colwell R. N. The use of radioactive isotopes in determining spore distribution patterns. Amer. Jour. Bot. 1951. 38(7):571-623.

Colwell R. N. Procedure for the construction of photo interpretation keys 1953. pp.135-54. Selected papers on photogeology and photo interpretation sponsored by Committee on Geophysics and Geography, Research and Development Board. GG 209/1

Duntley S. Q. Visibility of objects seen through the atmosphere. Jour. Opt. Soc. Amer. 1946. 36(6):359

Duntley S. Q. Reduction of apparent contrast by the atmosphere. Jour. Opt. Soc. Amer. 1948a. 38(2):179-90. DOI: 10.1364/JOSA.38.000179 [CrossRef]

Duntley S. Q. Visibility of distant objects. Jour. Opt. Soc. Amer. 1948b. 38(3):257

Eames A. J., Macdaniels L. H. An introduction to plant anatomy. 1947. New York: McGraw-Hill Publishing Company. 427p. (Second ed.)

Eggert J. Fortschritte und Grenzleistungen in der Infraredphotographie. Veroffentl. wiss. Zentral-Lab. Phot. Abt. AGFA. 1935. 4:101-18.

Hart Helen. Morphologic and physiologic studies on stem rust resistance in cereals. U.S. Dept. Agr. Tech. Bul. 1931. 266:1-75.

Hurlbert E. O., Tousey R. Visibility of stars in the daylight sky. Jour. Opt. Soc. Amer. 1948. 38(10):886 DOI: 10.1364/JOSA.38.000886 [CrossRef]

Hurlbert E. O., Tousey R. Brightness and polarization of the daylight sky at various altitudes above sea level. Jour. Opt. Soc. Amer. 1949. 39(2):78

Ives R. L. Infrared photography as an aid in ecological surveys. Ecology. 1939. 20:433-39. DOI: 10.2307/1930406 [CrossRef]

Jensen H. A., Colwell R. N. Panchromatic vs. infrared-minus blue aerial photography for forestry purposes in California. Photogrammetric Engineering. 1949. 15(2):201-33.

Keegan H. J., Schleter J. C., Hall W. A. Jr., Haas Gladys M. Spectrophotometric and colorimetric study of manually inoculated and field infected wheat rust 1956. Nat. Bur. Standards Rept. (In press.)

Kohn D. et seq. An essay key for the photoidentification of farm crops at several intervals during the growing season in northern Illinois. Parts 1 through 7 1952. ONR Geography Branch, Technical Rept. No. 3, Wn., D.C.

Middleton W. E. K. The attenuation of light by the atmosphere. Photogrammetric Engineering. 1950. 16(5):663-72.

Neblette C. B. Aerial photography for study of plant diseases. Photo Era Magazine. 1927. 58:346

Neblette C. B. Airplane photography for plant disease surveys. Photo Era Magazine. 1928. 59:175

Office of Naval Research. An experimental system of keys for the interpretation of vegetation on aerial photography 1950. p.177. ONR Amphibious Branch Technical Rept. No. 1.

Oswald J. W., Houston B. R. The yellow dwarf virus disease of cereal crops. Phytopath. 1953. 43(3):128-36.

Pearson F. A., Harper F. A. The world’s hunger. 1945. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press. 90p.

Popp H. W., Brown F. Effects of different regions of the visible spectrum upon seed plants. 1936. B. M., Biological effects of radiation, McGraw-Hill Publishing Company, New York and London: Chapter XXII of Duggar.

Ryker H. D. Aerial photography, method of determining timber species. Timberman. 1933. 24(5):11-17.

Shulte O. W. The use of panchromatic, infrared, and color aerial photography in the study of plant distribution. Photogrammetric Engineering. 1951. 17(5):688-714.

Stakman E. C. International problems in plant disease control. Amer. Phil. Soc. Proc. 1947. 91(1):95-111.

Stakman E. C. Proceedings of Aerobiology meeting of December 14, 1953. 1953. National Research Council. p. 1-94. Published by

Stakman E. C. Plant diseases: a constant menace to our food supplies. Lectures on the Charles M. and Martha Hitchcock Foundation. 1955a. University of California. (Unpublished.)

Stakman E. C. The long fight against wheat rust: Will it ever end?. Lectures on the Charles M. and Martha Hitchcock Foundation. 1955b. University of California. (Unpublished.)

Stakman E. C. Progress and problems in plant pathology. Ann. Applied Biology. 1955c. 42:22-33. DOI: 10.1111/j.1744-7348.1955.tb02407.x [CrossRef]

Stakman E. C. Unpublished correspondence and conversations with the writer 1956.

Stevens N. E., Stevens R. B. Diseases in plants. 1952. Waltham, Mass: Chronica Botanica Company. DOI: 10.1007/BF02869846 [CrossRef]

Suneson C. A. Report on Davis cereal crop nursery, summer of 1953 1953. (Unpublished.)

Suneson C. A. Effect of stem rust on yield of wheat. Agron. Jour. 1954. 46(3):112-14. DOI: 10.2134/agronj1954.00021962004600030003x [CrossRef]

Suneson C. A., Briggs F. N. Wheat production in California. California Agr. Exp. Sta. Bul. 1941. 659:18

Tarkington R. G. An aspect of color photography and interpretation. Photogrammetric Engineering. 1953. 19(3):418-20.

Taubenhaus J. J., Ezekiel Walter N., Neblette C. B. Airplane photography in the study of cotton root rot. Phytopath. 1929. 19:1025-29.

Truesdell P. E. Report of unclassified military terrain studies section. Photogrammetric Engineering. 1953. 19(3):468-72.

United States Geological Survey. Photo interpretation of vegetation in the tropical Pacific area and its use as an indicator of kind of ground. Engineering Notes No. 20 for OCE. 1944a. War Department.

United States Geological Survey. Terrain features of riceland paddies with special reference to China. 1944b. Engineering Notes No. 22 for OCE, War Department.

United States Navy. Pacific landforms and vegetation. Photographic Interpretation Center Rept. No. 1945. 7:105

United States Navy. Aerial photographic interpretation of diseased and healthy cereal crops. Photographic Interpretation Center Rept. 1953. 102-53:10

Colwell R. 1956. Determining the prevalence of certain cereal crop diseases by means of aerial photography. Hilgardia 26(5):223-286. DOI:10.3733/hilg.v26n05p223
Webmaster Email: wsuckow@ucanr.edu