Leaf area index (LAI) and plant area index (PAI) are common and important biophysical parameters used to estimate agronomical variables such as canopy growth, light interception and water requirements of plants and trees. LAI can be either measured directly using destructive methods or indirectly using dedicated and expensive instrumentation, both of which require a high level of know-how to operate equipment, handle data and interpret results. Recently, a novel smartphone and tablet PC application, VitiCanopy, has been developed by a group of researchers from the University of Adelaide and the University of Melbourne, to estimate grapevine canopy size (LAI and PAI), canopy porosity, canopy cover and clumping index. VitiCanopy uses the front in-built camera and GPS capabilities of smartphones and tablet PCs to automatically implement image analysis algorithms on upward-looking digital images of canopies and calculates relevant canopy architecture parameters. Results from the use of VitiCanopy on grapevines correlated well with traditional methods to measure/estimate LAI and PAI. Like other indirect methods, VitiCanopy does not distinguish between leaf and non-leaf material but it was demonstrated that the non-leaf material could be extracted from the results, if needed, to increase accuracy. VitiCanopy is an accurate, user-friendly and free alternative to current techniques used by scientists and viticultural practitioners to assess the dynamics of LAI, PAI and canopy architecture in vineyards, and has the potential to be adapted for use on other plants.
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