Reduced solar radiation brought about by trees on agricultural land can both positively and negatively affect crop growth. For a better understanding of this issue, we aim for an improved simulation of the shade cast by trees in agroforestry systems and a precise estimation of insolation reduction. We present a leaf creation algorithm to generate realistic leaves to be placed upon quantitative structure models (QSMs) of real trees. Further, we couple it with an enhanced approach of a 3D model capable of quantifying shading effects of a tree, at a high temporal and spatial resolution. Hence, 3D data derived from wild cherry trees (Prunus avium
L.) generated by terrestrial laser scanner technology formed a basis for the tree reconstruction, and served as leaf-off mode. Two leaf-on modes were simulated: realistic leaves, fed with leaf data from wild cherry trees; and ellipsoidal leaves, having ellipsoids as leaf-replacement. For comparison, we assessed the shading effects using hemispherical photography as an alternative method. Results showed that insolation reduction was higher using realistic leaves, and that the shaded area was greater in size than with the ellipsoidal leaves or leaf-off conditions. All shading effects were similarly distributed on the ground, with the exception of those derived through hemispherical photography, which were greater in size, but with less insolation reduction than realistic leaves. The main achievements of this study are: the enhancement of the leaf-on mode for QSMs with realistic leaves, the updates of the shadow model, and the comparison of shading effects. We provide evidence that the inclusion of realistic leaves with precise 3D data might be fundamental to accurately model the shading effects of trees.
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