4 proven methods of how to measure leaf area

You have a plant leaf and need to know how to measure leaf area. How to do this calculation? There are a couple of methods — starting from old-fashioned and finished with mobile-based apps.

How to measure leaf area with millimetre graph paper?

One of the methods of how to measure leaf area using graph paper
One of the methods of how to measure leaf area using graph paper

Millimetre graph paper is a special paper with one line per millimetre and centimetre index lines on letter-sized paper.

Step #1: place a leaf on top of the paper sheet.

Step #2: fix leaf on the same position with your fingers or using double-sided cello tape.

Step #3: outline a leaf using a pen or a pencil

Step #4: count of millimetre squares.

A quick hint: do not try to memorize your count, write it down.

Disadvantages: as you see this is a very chip and simple method. But it requires long hours for measuring leaf area if you have more than one leaf to measure. Also, the results of the measurement are not too accurate

Leaf area with ImageJ and other solutions

PC software (ImageJ, Adobe Photoshop, WinFOLIA, etc.). To make leaf area measurement, you need to have a photo or scan of a plant leaf and further processing is based on work with leaf digital image. In most cases, this method provides quite precise results but you need to become a guru of using this software. Every application has specific options and conditions in order to measure the leaf surface area. Leaf Area Scanners — handhold, portable (LI-Cor, CID, WinDIAS). Good stuff for non-destructive methods of leaf area measurement. You need to take a leaf area scanner with you and go to the field. This equipment provides accurate results and is comfortable to use. But they are too expensive for an ordinary farmer or scientist. Also, they have a problem of saving data: you cannot synchronize your leaf area measurement with data cloud or your PC.

Mobile applications know how to measure leaf

Mobile apps. There are two known Android-based mobile apps to measure leaf area: Petiole and Easy Leaf Area. Both of them are free to download, have an affordable price and provide precise plant leaf data. The way how they work is almost intuitive: open app, calibrate the camera, place a leaf in front of a camera and press the button on the screen. The app shows leaf area measurement in square centimetres. However, Petiole goes a little bit further and provides more options for work. If you have more than one leaf area measurement, this app will show you average leaf area and also there is an option to make an experimental comparison of different leaves.

Instead of a conclusion, it would be good to highlight that you can reach your agriculture goal and measure leaf area with any of these methods.

By Mary Kuzmenko

CEO Petiole
Growing plants and ideas

7 replies on “4 proven methods of how to measure leaf area”

You can try Petiole mobile app to calculate leaf area of wheat. Download the app here:
To calibrate camera, print this file on a plain white paper and it will be ready to use:
Additionally, I know that our users have different methods how to make wheat leaves not curvy. They use sticky tape or any sticky surface to fix them. If you do not have measuring stand to make the fixed height for every measurement – try to use a box, stack of books or any mobile holder (like “lazy arm” or similar). I hope this advice will work for you and your wheat research.

Dear Ramniwas,

Thank you for your question.
It will be good if you will clarify – do you need to measure Leaf Area Index (LAI) or specific leaf area for tamarind leaves?

Thank you in advance for your reply.


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