Vegetation Indices Combining the Red and Red-Edge Spectral Information for Leaf Area Index Retrieval

Qiaoyun Xie, Jadu Dash, Wenjiang Huang, Dailiang Peng, Qiming Qin, Hugh Mortimer, Raffaele Casa, Stefano Pignatti, Giovanni Laneve, Simone Pascucci, Yingying Dong, Huichun Ye

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

146 Citations (Scopus)


Leaf area index (LAI) is a crucial biophysical variable for agroecosystems monitoring. Conventional vegetation indices (VIs) based on red and near infrared regions of the electromagnetic spectrum, such as the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI), are commonly used to estimate the LAI. However, these indices commonly saturate at moderate-to-dense canopies (e.g., NDVI saturates when LAI exceeds three). Modified VIs have then been proposed to replace the typical red/green spectral region with the red-edge spectral region. One significant and often ignored aspect of this modification is that the reflectance in the red-edge spectral region is comparatively sensitive to chlorophyll content which is highly variable between different crops and different phenological states. In this study, three improved indices are proposed combining reflectance both in the red and red-edge spectral regions into the NDVI, the modified simple ratio index (MSR), and the green chlorophyll index (CIgreen) formula. These improved indices are termed NDVIred-RE (red and red-edge NDVI),MSRred-RE (red and red-edgeMSR index), and CIred-RE (red and red-edgeCI). The indices were tested using RapidEye images and in-situ data from campaigns at Maccarese Farm (Central Rome, Italy), in which four crop types at four different growth stages were measured.We investigated the predictive power of nine VIs for crop LAI estimation, including NDVI, MSR, and CIgreen; the red-edge modified indices: NDVIRed-edge, MSRRed-edge, and CIRed-edge (generally represented by VIRed-edge); and the newly improved indices: NDVIred-RE, MSRred-RE, andCIred-RE (generally represented byVIred-RE). The results show that VIred-RE improves the coefficient of determination (R2) for LAI estimation by 10% in comparison to VIRed-edge. The newly improved indices prove to be the powerful alternatives for the LAI estimation of crops with wide chlorophyll range, and may provide valuable information for satellites equipped with red-edge channels (such as Sentinel-2) when applied to precision agriculture.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1482-1492
Number of pages11
JournalIEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Applied Earth Observations and Remote Sensing
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2018
Externally publishedYes


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