How to ease the "Growing Pains" of plant growth studies?


    For farmers, crops that quickly cover the ground soon after seeding ("ground-cover") generally mean fewer weeds and reduced need for in-crop herbicide applications. Plants that grow faster early in the growing season and larger as the season goes on also tend to produce higher seed yields. These traits, however, have generally been very difficult and time-consuming to quantify. Biomass, in particular, is rarely measured due to associated time, costs, and killing the entire plants early.

    The goal of this project is to quantify ground-cover and plant volume using overhead imagery captured from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV's) and handheld cameras. Image analysis is performed on 2-dimensional stitched images to determine ground-cover and on 3-dimensional point clouds to measure parameters of plant volume, which are then compared with actual above-ground biomass. These imaging can be done quickly and economically.  No plant killing is needed so  it is possible to collect data at multiple times throughout the growing season.

    Ultimately, these imaging methods may be used to quickly and efficiently obtain plant growth and architecture information in breeding programs.



PI 490288 LSP

CDC Asterix

ILL 9888

CDC Redcoat

CDC Cherie

ILL 7716

Systems: (manuscripts in preparation)

UAV-based system to rapidly capture overhead images of research plots.

Ground-based system to capture high-resolution overhead images of research plots. 


Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada

Rosthern, Saskatchewan, Canada

Traits Phenotyped:

Whole-plot above-ground biomass biweekly, beginning two weeks after emergence.

Stage (nodes, flowers, pods, etc.) at biomass collection.

Canopy height at biomass collection.

Plant number per row at emergence and at time of biomass collection.

Plot dimensions from overhead perspective at time of biomass collection.

Wet-weight biomass

Dry-weight biomass

Leaf area (sub-sample, Saskatoon location only) at time of biomass collection.

Who is working on this?

Karsten Nielsen 

Dr. Steve Shirtliffe 

Department of Computer Sciences, University of Saskatchewan

Research Area
Breeding & Genetics

Plant breeding is the art and science of changing the traits of plants in order to produce desired characteristics. Plant breeding can be accomplished through many different techniques ranging from simply selecting plants with desirable characteristics for propagation, to more complex molecular techniques. ... [more]


The objectives of the Pulse Research Group Physiology Program is to investigate whole plant and field responses of crops, particularly pulse crops, to nutrient, water and weather.  To understand and improve yield formation in pulse crops in a warming climate.  To investigate and improve nitrogen ... [more]

Sequences, Variants & Markers