Investigation of the influence of leaf thickness on canopy reflectance and physiological traits in upland and pima cotton populations

Duke Pauli, Jeffrey W. White, Pedro Andrade-Sanchez, Matthew M. Conley, John Heun, Kelly R. Thorp, Andrew N. French, Douglas J. Hunsaker, Elizabete Carmo-Silva, Guangyao Wang, Michael A. Gore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Many systems for field-based, high-throughput phenotyping (FB-HTP) quantify and characterize the reflected radiation fromthe crop canopy to derive phenotypes, as well as infer plant function and health status. However, given the technology’s nascent status, it remains unknown how biophysical and physiological properties of the plant canopy impact downstream interpretation and application of canopy reflectance data. In that light, we assessed relationships between leaf thickness and several canopy-associated traits, including normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI), which was collected via active reflectance sensors carried on a mobile FB-HTP system, carbon isotope discrimination (CID), and chlorophyll content. To investigate the relationships among traits, two distinct cotton populations, an upland (Gossypium hirsutum L.) recombinant inbred line (RIL) population of 95 lines and a Pima (G. barbadense L.) population composed of 25 diverse cultivars, were evaluated under contrasting irrigation regimes, water-limited (WL) and well-watered (WW) conditions, across 3 years. We detected four quantitative trait loci (QTL) and significant variation in both populations for leaf thickness among genotypes as well as high estimates of broad-sense heritability (on average, above 0.7 for both populations), indicating a strong genetic basis for leaf thickness. Strong phenotypic correlations (maximum r = −0.73) were observed between leaf thickness and NDVI in the Pima population, but not the RIL population. Additionally, estimated genotypic correlations within the RIL population for leaf thickness with CID, chlorophyll content, and nitrogen discrimination (rgij = −0.32, 0.48, and 0.40, respectively) were all significant under WW but not WL conditions. Economically important fiber quality traits did not exhibit significant phenotypic or genotypic correlations with canopy traits. Overall, our results support considering variation in leaf thickness as a potential contributing factor to variation in NDVI or other canopy traits measured via proximal sensing, and as a trait that impacts fundamental physiological responses of plants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1405
JournalFrontiers in Plant Science
StatePublished - Aug 17 2017


  • Abiotic stress
  • Canopy reflectance
  • Cotton
  • High-throughput phenotyping
  • Leaf thickness
  • Specific leaf weight

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science


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