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BACKGROUND: The need for rapid in-field measurement of key traits contributing to yield over many thousands of genotypes is a major roadblock in crop breeding. Recently, leaf hyperspectral reflectance data has been used to train machine learning models using partial least squares regression (PLSR) to rapidly predict genetic variation in photosynthetic and leaf traits across wheat populations, among other species. However, the application of published PLSR spectral models is limited by a fixed spectral wavelength range as input and the requirement of separate custom-built models for each trait and wavelength range. In addition, the use of reflectance spectra from the short-wave infrared region requires expensive multiple detector spectrometers. The ability to train a model that can accommodate input from different spectral ranges would potentially make such models extensible to more affordable sensors. Here we compare the accuracy of prediction of PLSR with various deep learning approaches and an ensemble model, each trained and tested using previously published data sets. RESULTS: We demonstrate that the accuracy of PLSR to predict photosynthetic and related leaf traits in wheat can be improved with deep learning-based and ensemble models without overfitting. Additionally, these models can be flexibly applied across spectral ranges without significantly compromising accuracy. CONCLUSION: The method reported provides an improved prediction of wheat leaf and photosynthetic traits from leaf hyperspectral reflectance and do not require a full range, high cost leaf spectrometer. We provide a web service for deploying these algorithms to predict physiological traits in wheat from a variety of spectral data sets, with important implications for wheat yield prediction and crop breeding.

Original publication




Journal article


Plant Methods

Publication Date





Deep learning, Hyperspectral reflectance, Machine learning, Photosynthesis, Wheat