Monitoring the vertical distribution of leaf area index (LAI) is an effective method for evaluating canopy photosynthesis and biomass productivity. In this study, we proposed a novel method to characterize LAI vertical distribution non-destructively by utilizing LAI-2200 plant canopy analyzer, followed by the application of statistical moment equations. Field experiments were conducted with 5 rice cultivars under 2 fertilizer treatments in 2013 and with 3 rice cultivars under 3 plant density treatments in 2014. LAI readings obtained by a plant canopy analyzer for non-destructive stratified measurements were relatively consistent with LAI estimations using the stratified clipping method for every cultivar and treatment. The parameters calculated using the statistical moment equations numerically showed the changes in LAI vertical distribution with plant growth up to the heading stage. The differences in the parameters also quantified the effect of cultivar, fertilizer, and plant density treatments. These results suggest that the non-destructive stratified measurements and the statistical moments evaluated in this study provide quantitative, reliable information on the dynamics of LAI vertical distribution. The method is expected to be utilized by researchers in various research fields sharing common interests.
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