Multitemporal crop surface models: Accurate plant height measurement and biomass estimation with terrestrial laser scanning in paddy rice

Nora Tilly, Dirk Hoffmeister, Qiang Cao, Shanyu Huang, Victoria Lenz-Wiedemann, Yuxin Miao, Georg Bareth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

114 Scopus citations


Appropriate field management requires methods of measuring plant height with high precision, accuracy, and resolution. Studies show that terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) is suitable for capturing small objects like crops. In this contribution, the results of multitemporal TLS surveys for monitoring plant height on paddy rice fields in China are presented. Three campaigns were carried out on a field experiment and on a farmer's conventionally managed field. The high density of measurement points allows us to establish crop surface models with a resolution of 1 cm, which can be used for deriving plant heights. For both sites, strong correlations (each R2 = 0.91 between TLS-derived and manually measured plant heights confirm the accuracy of the scan data. A biomass regression model was established based on the correlation between plant height and biomass samples from the field experiment (R2 = 0.86). The transferability to the farmer's field was supported with a strong correlation between simulated and measured values (R2 = 0.90). Independent biomass measurements were used for validating the temporal transferability. The study demonstrates the advantages of TLS for deriving plant height, which can be used for modeling biomass. Consequently, laser scanning methods are a promising tool for precision agriculture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number083671
JournalJournal of Applied Remote Sensing
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was financially supported by the International Bureau of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF, Project No. 01DO12013) and the German Research Foundation (DFG, Project No. BA 2062/8-1). We gratefully thank the Qixing Research and Development Centre, the Jiansanjiang Agricultural Research Station (both located in Heilongjiang Province, China) and Five Star Electronic Technologies (Beijing, China) for good cooperation. Furthermore, we like to thank RIEGL LMS GmbH (Horn, Austria) for continuous support. We thank the anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments, which clearly enhanced the paper.


  • biomass
  • crop monitoring
  • field level
  • growth
  • plant height
  • precision agriculture
  • rice
  • terrestrial laser scanning


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