Background: The efficient and robust statistical analysis of the shape of plant organs of different cultivars is an important investigation issue in plant breeding and enables a robust cultivar description within the breeding progress. Laser scanning is a highly accurate and high resolution technique to acquire the 3D shape of plant surfaces. The computation of a shape based principal component analysis (PCA) built on concepts from continuum mechanics has proven to be an effective tool for a qualitative and quantitative shape examination.
Results: The shape based PCA was used for a statistical analysis of 140 sugar beet roots of different cultivars. The calculation of the mean sugar beet root shape and the description of the main variations was possible. Furthermore, unknown and individual tap roots could be attributed to their cultivar by means of a robust classification tool based on the PCA results. % (classification), based on characteristic tap root shapes.
Conclusion: The method demonstrates that it is possible to identify principal modes of root shape variations automatically and to quantify associated variances out of laser scanned 3D sugar beet tap root models. The introduced approach is not limited to the 3D shape description by laser scanning. A transfer to 3D MRI or radar data is also conceivable.