Early prediction of crop production by remote sensing (RS) may help to plan the harvest and ensure food security. This study aims to improve the quantification of yield, grain protein concentration (GPC), and nitrogen (N) output in winter wheat with RS imagery. Ground-truth wheat traits were measured at flowering and harvest in a field experiment combining four N and two water levels in central Spain over 2 years. Hyperspectral and thermal airborne images coincident with Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 were acquired at flowering. A parametric linear model using all hyperspectral normalized difference spectral indices (NDSI) and two non-parametric models (artificial neural network and random forest) were used to assess their estimation ability combining NDSIs and other RS indicators.
The feasibility of using freely available multispectral satellite was tested by applying the same methodology but using Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 bands. Yield estimation obtained the highest R2 value, showing that the visible and short-wave infrared region (VSWIR) had similar accuracy to the hyperspectral and Sentinel-2 imagery (R2 ≈ 0.84). The SWIR bands were important in the GPC estimation with both sensors, whereas N output was better estimated using red-edge-based NDSIs, obtaining satisfactory results with the hyperspectral sensor (R2 = 0.74) and with the Sentinel-2 (R2 = 0.62). When including the Sentinel-2 SWIR index, the NDSI (B11, B3) improved the estimation of N output (R2 = 0.71). Ensemble models based on Sentinel were found to be as reliable as those based on hyperspectral imagery, and including SWIR information improved the quantification of N-related traits.