In vivo human-like robotic phenotyping of leaf traits in maize and sorghum in greenhouse

Abbas Atefi, Yufeng Ge, Santosh Pitla, James Schnable

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


In plant phenotyping, leaf-level physiological and chemical trait measurements are needed to investigate and monitor the condition of plants. The manual measurement of these properties is time consuming, error prone, and laborious. The use of robots is a new approach to accomplish such endeavors, enabling automated monitoring with minimal human intervention. In this paper, a plant phenotyping robotic system was developed to realize automated measurement of plant leaf properties. The robotic system comprised of a four Degree of Freedom (DOF) robotic manipulator and a Time-of-Flight (TOF) camera. A robotic gripper was developed to integrate an optical fiber cable (coupled to a portable spectrometer) for leaf spectral reflectance measurement, and a thermistor for leaf temperature measurement. A MATLAB program along with a Graphical User Interface (GUI) was developed to control the robotic system and its components, and for acquiring and recording data obtained from the sensors. The system was tested in a greenhouse using maize and sorghum plants. The results showed that leaf temperature measurements by the phenotyping robot were significantly correlated with those measured manually by a human researcher (R2 = 0.58 for maize and 0.63 for sorghum). The leaf spectral measurements by the phenotyping robot predicted leaf chlorophyll, water content and potassium with moderate success (R2 ranged from 0.52 to 0.61), whereas the prediction for leaf nitrogen and phosphorus were poor. The total execution time to grasp and take measurements from one leaf was 35.5 ± 4.4 s for maize and 38.5 ± 5.7 s for sorghum. Furthermore, the test showed that the grasping success rate was 78% for maize and 48% for sorghum. The phenotyping robot can be useful to complement the traditional image-based high-throughput plant phenotyping in greenhouses by collecting in vivo leaf-level physiological and biochemical trait measurements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104854
JournalComputers and Electronics in Agriculture
StatePublished - Aug 2019


  • Agricultural robotics
  • Image processing
  • Leaf reflectance
  • Leaf temperature
  • Machine vision
  • Plant phenotyping

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Horticulture


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