International Journal of Biometeorology

, Volume 55, Issue 6, pp 867–877 | Cite as

A comparison of methods to estimate seasonal phenological development from BBCH scale recording

  • Christine CorneliusEmail author
  • Hannes Petermeier
  • Nicole Estrella
  • Annette Menzel
Original Paper


The BBCH scale is a two-digit key of growth stages in plants that is based on standardised definitions of plant development stages. The extended BBCH scale, used in this paper, enables the coding of the entire development cycle of all mono- and dicotyledonous plants. Using this key, the frequency distribution of phenological stages was recorded which required a less intense sampling frequency. The onset dates of single events were later estimated from the frequency distribution of BBCH codes. The purpose of this study was to present four different methods from which those onset dates can be estimated. Furthermore, the effects of (1) a less detailed observation key and (2) changes in the sampling frequency on estimates of onset dates were assessed. For all analyses, phenological data from the entire development cycle of four grass species were used. Estimates of onset dates determined by Weighted Plant Development (WPD), Pooled pre-/post-Stage Development (PSD), Cumulative Stage Development (CSD) and Ordinal Logistic Regression (OLR) methods can all be used to determine the phenological progression of plants. Moreover, results show that a less detailed observation key still resulted in similar onset dates, unless more than two consecutive stages were omitted. Further results reveal that the simulation of a less intense sampling frequency had only small impacts on estimates of onset dates. Thus, especially in remote areas where an observation interval of a week is not feasible, estimates derived from the frequency distribution of BBCH codes appear to be appropriate.


Flowering Grassland Observation key Onset dates Sampling frequency 



Analysis of Variance


Biologische Bundesanstalt, Bundessortenamt and Chemical Industry


Cumulative Stage Development


German meteorological service


International Phenological Gardens


Ordinal Logistic Regression


Pooled pre/post Stage Development


USA National Phenology Network


Weighted Plant Development



The study was pursued within the framework of the joint research centre FORKAST and was funded by the "Bavarian Climate Programme 2020”. We thank Tim Sparks for his valuable comments on this paper. The authors gratefully acknowledge the support of the TUM Graduate School’s Faculty Graduate Center Weihenstephan at the Technische Universität München.


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Copyright information

© ISB 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christine Cornelius
    • 1
    Email author
  • Hannes Petermeier
    • 2
  • Nicole Estrella
    • 1
  • Annette Menzel
    • 1
  1. 1.Chair of EcoclimatologyTechnische Universität MünchenFreisingGermany
  2. 2.Fachgebiet BiostatistikTechnische Universität MünchenFreisingGermany

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