U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


Date of this Version



Published in Crop Sci. 40:1179–1183 (2000).


Measurement of leaf area index (LAI) is critical to understanding many aspects of crop development, growth, and management. Avail- ability of portable meters to estimate LAI non-destructively has greatly increased our ability to determine this parameter during the cropping season. However, with several devices on the market, each with an independent set of protocols for gathering accurate estimates of LAI, it is necessary for scientists to have comparisons of these meters under field conditions before selecting one for purchase and use. The objective of our study was to compare the LAI estimates by three meters (AccuPAR, LAI-2000, and SunScan) to LAI measured by destructive sampling. Leaf area index of two corn (Zea mays L.) hybrids, grown on a Pachic Haplustoll, was measured at the R2 stage by the four methods before and after successive thinning of plant stands. Destructively sampled LAI ranged from 4.59 to 1.25 for the initial stand to the most severe thinning. Hybrids did not differ in LAI. All meters underestimated LAI compared with destructive sampling. When all data from all rings of the LAI-2000 meter were included in the calculations, LAI-2000 estimates of LAI differed from those of the other two meters. However, when data from Ring 5 was removed from the calculations, estimates of LAI for the LAI-2000 improved and were indistinguishable from the other meters. The relationship between LAI estimated destructively and by each of the meters was described by a unique linear equation for each hybrid. Results of this study, and experience with use of the meters, suggest that users should consider protocols for operating each meter before deciding which device best suits their application.