There is significant enthusiasm about the potential for hyperspectral imaging to document variation among plant species, genotypes or growing conditions. However, in many cases the application of hyperspectral imaging is performed in highly controlled situations that focus on a flat portion of a leaf or side-views of plants that would be difficult to obtain in field settings. We were interested in assessing the potential for applying hyperspectral imaging to document variation in genotypes or abiotic stresses in a fashion that could be implemented in field settings. Specifically, we focused on collecting top-down hyperspectral images of maize seedlings similar to a view that would be collected in a typical maize field. A top-down image of a maize seedling includes a view into the funnel-like whorl at the center of the plant with several leaves radiating outwards. There is substantial variability in the reflectance profile of different portions of this plant. To deal with the variability in reflectance profiles that arises from this morphology we implemented a method that divides the longest leaf into 10 segments from the center to the leaf tip. We show that using these segments provides improved ability to discriminate different genotypes or abiotic stress conditions (heat, cold or salinity stress) for maize seedlings. We also found substantial differences in the ability to successfully classify abiotic stress conditions among different inbred genotypes of maize. This provides an approach that can be implemented to help classify genotype and environmental variation for maize seedlings that could be implemented in field settings.
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