Effect of leaf and spike morphological traits on the relationship between spectral reflectance indices and yield in wheat
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While certain spectral reflectance indices have been shown to be sensitive to the expression of a range of performance-related traits in crops, knowledge of the potentially confounding effects associated with plant anatomy could help improve their application in phenotyping. Morphological traits (leaf and spike wax content, leaf and spike orientation, and awns on spikes) were studied in 20 contrasting advanced wheat lines to determine their influence on spectral indices and in their association with grain yield under well-irrigated conditions. Canopy reflectance (400-1100 nm) was determined at heading and grain filling during two growing seasons and three vegetation indices (VIs; red normalized difference vegetation index (RNDVI), green normalized difference vegetation index (GNDVI), and simple ratio (SR)), and five water indices (WIs; one simple WI and four normalized WIs (NWI-1, NWI-2, NWI-3, and NWI-4)) were calculated. The major reflectance fluctuations caused by the differences in leaf and spike morphology mainly occurred in the infrared region (700-1100 nm) and little variation in the visible region (400-700 nm). The NWI-3 ((R-970 - R-880)/(R-970 + R-880)) consistently showed a stronger association with yield than the RNDVI by using uncorrected canopy reflectance (original raw data) and data adjusted by scattering and smoothing. When canopy reflectance was corrected by a scattering method, the NWI-3 and a modified RNDVI with 958 nm showed the strongest correlations with grain yield by grouping lines for waxy leaves and spikes, curved leaves, and erect and awnless spikes. The results showed that the relationship between the spectral indices and grain yield can be improved (higher correlations) by correcting canopy reflectance for confounding effects associated with differences in leaf and spike morphology.
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