A non-destructive method for estimating onion leaf area

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Leaf area is one of the most important parameters for characterizing crop growth and development, and its measurement is useful for examining the effects of agronomic management on crop production. It is related to interception of radiation, photosynthesis, biomass accumulation, transpiration and gas exchange in crop canopies. Several direct and indirect methods have been developed for determining leaf area. The aim of this study is to develop an indirect method, based on the use of a mathematical model, to compute leaf area in an onion crop using non-destructive measurements with the condition that the model must be practical and useful as a Decision Support System tool to improve crop management. A field experiment was conducted in a 4.75 ha commercial onion plot irrigated with a centre pivot system in Aguas Nuevas (Albacete, Spain), during the 2010 irrigation season. To determine onion crop leaf area in the laboratory, the crop was sampled on four occasions between 15 June and 15 September. At each sampling event, eight experimental plots of 1 m2 were used and the leaf area for individual leaves was computed using two indirect methods, one based on the use of an automated infrared imaging system, LI-COR-3100C, and the other using a digital scanner EPSON GT-8000, obtaining several images that were processed using Image J v 1.43 software. A total of 1146 leaves were used. Before measuring the leaf area, 25 parameters related to leaf length and width were determined for each leaf. The combined application of principal components analysis and cluster analysis for grouping leaf parameters was used to reduce the number of variables from 25 to 12. The parameter derived from the product of the total leaf length (L) and the leaf diameter at a distance of 25% of the total leaf length (A25) gave the best results for estimating leaf area using a simple linear regression model. The model obtained was useful for computing leaf area using a non-destructive method.

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