Utility of an image-based canopy reflectance modeling tool for remote estimation of LAI and leaf chlorophyll content at the field scale

Rasmus Houborg*, Martha Anderson, Craig Daughtry

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

187 Scopus citations


This paper presents a physically-based approach for estimating critical variables describing land surface vegetation canopies, relying on remotely sensed data that can be acquired from operational satellite sensors. The REGularized canopy reFLECtance (REGFLEC) modeling tool couples leaf optics (PROSPECT), canopy reflectance (ACRM), and atmospheric radiative transfer (6SV1) model components, facilitating the direct use of at-sensor radiances in green, red and near-infrared wavelengths for the inverse retrieval of leaf chlorophyll content (Cab) and total one-sided leaf area per unit ground area (LAI). The inversion of the canopy reflectance model is constrained by assuming limited variability of leaf structure, vegetation clumping, and leaf inclination angle within a given crop field and by exploiting the added radiometric information content of pixels belonging to the same field. A look-up-table with a suite of pre-computed spectral reflectance relationships, each a function of canopy characteristics, soil background effects and external conditions, is accessed for fast pixel-wise biophysical parameter retrievals. Using 1 m resolution aircraft and 10 m resolution SPOT-5 imagery, REGFLEC effectuated robust biophysical parameter retrievals for a corn field characterized by a wide range in leaf chlorophyll levels and intermixed green and senescent leaf material. Validation against in-situ observations yielded relative root-mean-square deviations (RMSD) on the order of 10% for the 1 m resolution LAI (RMSD = 0.25) and Cab (RMSD = 4.4 μg cm- 2) estimates, due in part to an efficient correction for background influences. LAI and Cab retrieval accuracies at the SPOT 10 m resolution were characterized by relative RMSDs of 13% (0.3) and 17% (7.1 μg cm- 2), respectively, and the overall intra-field pattern in LAI and Cab was well established at this resolution. The developed method has utility in agricultural fields characterized by widely varying distributions of model variables and holds promise as a valuable operational tool for precision crop management. Work is currently in progress to extend REGFLEC to regional scales.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)259-274
Number of pages16
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 15 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Atmospheric radiative transfer
  • Canopy reflectance
  • Corn
  • Green reflectance
  • Image-based application
  • Inverse modeling
  • Leaf area index
  • Leaf chlorophyll
  • Leaf optics
  • Look-up tables
  • Regularization
  • Satellite
  • Vegetation stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science
  • Geology
  • Computers in Earth Sciences


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