Photosynthesis Research

, Volume 91, Issue 1, pp 37–46 | Cite as

Evaluating the relationship between leaf chlorophyll concentration and SPAD-502 chlorophyll meter readings

  • J. UddlingEmail author
  • J. Gelang-Alfredsson
  • K. Piikki
  • H. Pleijel
Regular Paper


Relationships between chlorophyll concentration ([chl]) and SPAD values were determined for birch, wheat, and potato. For all three species, the relationships were non-linear with an increasing slope with increasing SPAD. The relationships for birch and wheat were strong (r 2 ∼ 0.9), while the potato relationship was comparatively weak (r 2 ∼ 0.5). Birch and wheat had very similar relationships when the chlorophyll concentration was expressed per unit leaf area, but diverged when it was expressed per unit fresh weight. Furthermore, wheat showed similar SPAD–[chl] relationships for two different cultivars and during two different growing seasons. The curvilinear shape of the SPAD–[chl] relationships agreed well with the simulated effects of non-uniform chlorophyll distribution across the leaf surface and multiple scattering, causing deviations from linearity in the high and low SPAD range, respectively. The effect of non-uniformly distributed chlorophyll is likely to be more important in explaining the non-linearity in the empirical relationships, since the effect of scattering was predicted to be comparatively weak. The simulations were based on the algorithm for the calculation of SPAD-502 output values. We suggest that SPAD calibration curves should generally be parameterised as non-linear equations, and we hope that the relationships between [chl] and SPAD and the simulations of the present study can facilitate the interpretation of chlorophyll meter calibrations in relation to optical properties of leaves in future studies.


Absorbance Chlorophyll Non-uniform chlorophyll distribution Reflectance Scattering SPAD 







Absorbance of control sample with uniformly distributed chlorophyll and no scattering


Concentration of absorbers


Chlorophyll concentration per unit leaf area


Chlorophyll concentration per unit fresh weight


Intensity of transmitted light


Intensity of incident monochromatic light


Coefficient in SPAD algorithm


Length of light path through absorbers


Output SPAD value


Absorbance ratio between samples with and without scattering; also called apparent scattering pathlength




Internal reflectance


External leaf surface reflectance




Molar absorption coefficient


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We are very grateful to Kamilla Fredin for laboratory assistance as well as for a useful suggestion on the interpretation of the data, and to Professor John Markwell for sharing with us the technical bulletin describing the SPAD-502 that Spectrum Technologies Inc. (Plainfield, Illinois, USA) sent him in 1994.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Uddling
    • 1
    Email author
  • J. Gelang-Alfredsson
    • 1
  • K. Piikki
    • 1
  • H. Pleijel
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Plant and Environmental SciencesGöteborg UniversityGöteborgSweden

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