Spectral-Based Classification of Plant Species Groups and Functional Plant Parts in Managed Permanent Grassland

Roland Britz, Norbert Barta, Andreas Schaumberger, Andreas Klingler, Alexander Bauer, Erich M. Pötsch, Andreas Gronauer, Viktoria Motsch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Grassland vegetation typically comprises the species groups grasses, herbs, and legumes. These species groups provide different functional traits and feed values. Therefore, knowledge of the botanical composition of grasslands can enable improved site-specific management and livestock feeding. A systematic approach was developed to analyze vegetation of managed permanent grassland using hyperspectral imaging in a laboratory setting. In the first step, hyperspectral images of typical grassland plants were recorded, annotated, and classified according to species group and plant parts, that is, flowers, leaves, and stems. In the second step, three different machine learning model types—multilayer perceptron (MLP), random forest (RF), and partial least squares discriminant analysis (PLS-DA)—were trained with pixel-wise spectral information to discriminate different species groups and plant parts in individual models. The influence of radiometric data calibration and specific data preprocessing steps on the overall model performance was also investigated. While the influence of proper radiometric calibration was negligible in our setting, specific preprocessing variants, including smoothening and derivation of the spectrum, were found to be beneficial for classification accuracy. Compared to extensively preprocessed data, raw spectral data yielded no statistically decreased performance in most cases. Overall, the MLP models outperformed the PLS-DA and RF models and reached cross-validation accuracies of 96.8% for species group and 88.6% for plant part classification. The obtained insights provide an essential basis for future data acquisition and data analysis of grassland vegetation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1154
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Calibration
  • Data preprocessing
  • Grassland vegetation
  • Hyperspectral imaging
  • Machine learning
  • Multilayer perceptron
  • Partial least squares discriminant analysis
  • Random forest
  • Spectral-based classification


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