The self-supervised spectral–spatial vision transformer network for accurate prediction of wheat nitrogen status from UAV imagery

Xin Zhang, Liangxiu Han, Tam Sobeih, Lewis Lappin, Mark A. Lee, Andrew Howard, Aron Kisdi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Nitrogen (N) fertilizer is routinely applied by farmers to increase crop yields. At present, farmers often over-apply N fertilizer in some locations or at certain times because they do not have high-resolution crop N status data. N-use efficiency can be low, with the remaining N lost to the environment, resulting in higher production costs and environmental pollution. Accurate and timely estimation of N status in crops is crucial to improving cropping systems’ economic and environmental sustainability. Destructive approaches based on plant tissue analysis are time consuming and impractical over large fields. Recent advances in remote sensing and deep learning have shown promise in addressing the aforementioned challenges in a non-destructive way. In this work, we propose a novel deep learning framework: a self-supervised spectral–spatial attention-based vision transformer (SSVT). The proposed SSVT introduces a Spectral Attention Block (SAB) and a Spatial Interaction Block (SIB), which allows for simultaneous learning of both spatial and spectral features from UAV digital aerial imagery, for accurate N status prediction in wheat fields. Moreover, the proposed framework introduces local-to-global self-supervised learning to help train the model from unlabelled data. The proposed SSVT has been compared with five state-of-the-art models including: ResNet, RegNet, EfficientNet, EfficientNetV2, and the original vision transformer on both testing and independent datasets. The proposed approach achieved high accuracy (0.96) with good generalizability and reproducibility for wheat N status estimation
Original languageEnglish
Article number1400
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 14 Mar 2022


  • crop nitrogen status; wheat; deep learning; transformer; self-supervised learning; UAV

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