Dynamic quantification of canopy structure to characterize early plant vigour in wheat genotypes


Early vigour is an important physiological trait to improve establishment, water-use efficiency, and grain yield for wheat. Phenotyping large numbers of lines is challenging due to the fast growth and development of wheat seedlings. Here we developed a new photo-based workflow to monitor dynamically the growth and development of the wheat canopy of two wheat lines with a contrasting early vigour trait. Multiview images were taken using a ‘vegetation stress’ camera at 2 d intervals from emergence to the sixth leaf stage. Point clouds were extracted using the Multi-View Stereo and Structure From Motion (MVS-SFM) algorithm, and segmented into individual organs using the Octree method, with leaf midribs fitted using local polynomial function. Finally, phenotypic parameters were calculated from the reconstructed point cloud including: tiller and leaf number, plant height, Haun index, phyllochron, leaf length, angle, and leaf elongation rate. There was good agreement between the observed and estimated leaf length (RMSE=8.6mm, R2 =0.98, n =322) across both lines. Significant contrasts of phenotyping parameters were observed between the two lines and were consistent with manual observations. The early vigour line had fewer tillers (2.4±0.6) and larger leaves (308.0±38.4mm and 17.1±2.7mm for leaf length and width, respectively). While the phyllochron of both lines was quite similar, the non-vigorous line had a greater Haun index (more leaves on the main stem) on any date, as the vigorous line had slower development of its first two leaves. The workflow presented in this study provides an efficient method to phenotype individual plants using a low-cost camera (an RGB camera is also suitable) and could be applied in phenotyping for applications in both simulation modelling and breeding. The rapidity and accuracy of this novel method can characterize the results of specific selection criteria (e.g. width of leaf three, number of tillers, rate of leaf appearance) that have been or can now be utilized to breed for early leaf growth and tillering in wheat.

Journal of Experimental Botany
Bangyou Zheng
Bangyou Zheng
Data Scientist / Digital Agronomist

a research scientist of digital agriculture at the CSIRO.