A new software allows researchers to accurately measure leaf area from digital images in seconds.
Leaf measurements are often critical in plant physiological and ecological studies, but traditional methods have been time consuming and sometimes destructive to plant samples.
Researchers at the University of California, Davis, have developed Easy Leaf Area - a free software written in an open-source programming language - to allow users to accurately measure leaf area from digital images.
"It has always been a challenge to measure leaf surface area without damaging the plants or spending long hours in the lab, so I decided to attempt to write software to automatically measure leaf and scale area from smartphone images," said Hsien Ming Easlon, a researcher at UC Davis and one of the developers of Easy Leaf Area.
"Leaf area measurements are essential for estimating crop yields, water usage, nutrient absorption, plant competition, and many other aspects of growth," Easlon said.
Easlon and his team developed Easy Leaf Area using Arabidopsis plants, and also tested Easy Leaf Area on photographs of field-grown tomatoes and wheat, and photographs and scans of detached leaves of a common tree poppy, California redwood, chaparral currant, Jeffrey pine, and Valley oak.
Easlon's next step is to develop a mobile version so that leaf area measurements can be made on the fly without a computer.
"The processing power, connectivity, built-in sensors, storage capacity, and low price give smartphones great potential to replace many single-purpose devices for scientific data collection," said Easlon.