New Forests

pp 1–12 | Cite as

Relationships between reflectance and absorbance chlorophyll indices with RGB (Red, Green, Blue) image components in seedlings of tropical tree species at nursery stage

  • Elizabeth Santos do Amaral
  • Daniela Vieira Silva
  • Letícia Dos Anjos
  • Ana Cristina Schilling
  • Ândrea Carla Dalmolin
  • Marcelo Schramm MielkeEmail author


Methods based on RGB (Red, Green, Blue) image segmentation may emerge as a new and low-cost method for estimation the quality of tree seedlings. However, the vast number of indexes based on the use of the RGB image segmentation and the lack of references in the literature still hinder the widespread use of this technology. Thus, we conducted a study aiming to test the relationships between methods based on absorbance and reflectance, widely used for the estimation of chlorophyll contents and physiological status of trees, and ten indexes based on RGB component analysis. We used leaves of five tropical tree species, belonging to different botanical families. Leaf absorbance was measured using the handheld chlorophyll meter SPAD-502, reflectance was measured using a spectrometer and the RGB indices were obtained from digitalized images of the leaves using a flatbed scanner. Modified linear regression models including all five species were used to relate RGB indices to absorbance and reflectance indices. Data collected from leaves of seedlings of five tropical tree species indicated that digital image processing technology can be a useful and rapid nondestructive method for assessment of physiological status of tree seedlings at nursery stage. Among the RGB indexes tested in this study the R, 2R*(G − B)/(G + B) and 2G*(G − B)/(G + B) are the most promising for analysis the tropical seedlings physiological status and quality.


Leaf image analysis Leaf reflectance Multispecies regression model Portable chlorophyll meters 



The authors thank Gerson J. Sales Neto, Nilson A. dos Santos and Rones F. Souza, of Floresta Viva Institute, and M.Sc. Murilo F. C. de Jesus for assistance with data collection. We thank Dr. Fábio P. Gomes of DCB/UESC for providing the SPAD-502 used in this study. Funding for Elizabeth S. Amaral during this study was provided by a scholarship from Capes (Brazilian Higher Education Council). Marcelo S. Mielke gratefully acknowledge CNPq (Brazilian National Council for Scientific and Technological Development) for the award of fellowship of scientific productivity (306531/2015-1). This study was supported by CNPq (561933/2010).


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departamento de Ciências BiológicasUniversidade Estadual de Santa CruzIlhéusBrazil
  2. 2.Departamento de Ciências Agrárias e AmbientaisUniversidade Estadual de Santa CruzIlhéusBrazil
  3. 3.Departamento de Bioquímica e Biologia MolecularUniversidade Federal do CearáFortalezaBrazil
  4. 4.Departamento de Ciências Exatas e TecnológicasUniversidade Estadual de Santa CruzIlhéusBrazil

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