Chlorophyll fluorescence analysis: a guide to good practice and understanding some new applications

J Exp Bot. 2013 Oct;64(13):3983-98. doi: 10.1093/jxb/ert208. Epub 2013 Aug 3.


Chlorophyll fluorescence is a non-invasive measurement of photosystem II (PSII) activity and is a commonly used technique in plant physiology. The sensitivity of PSII activity to abiotic and biotic factors has made this a key technique not only for understanding the photosynthetic mechanisms but also as a broader indicator of how plants respond to environmental change. This, along with low cost and ease of collecting data, has resulted in the appearance of a large array of instrument types for measurement and calculated parameters which can be bewildering for the new user. Moreover, its accessibility can lead to misuse and misinterpretation when the underlying photosynthetic processes are not fully appreciated. This review is timely because it sits at a point of renewed interest in chlorophyll fluorescence where fast measurements of photosynthetic performance are now required for crop improvement purposes. Here we help the researcher make choices in terms of protocols using the equipment and expertise available, especially for field measurements. We start with a basic overview of the principles of fluorescence analysis and provide advice on best practice for taking pulse amplitude-modulated measurements. We also discuss a number of emerging techniques for contemporary crop and ecology research, where we see continual development and application of analytical techniques to meet the new challenges that have arisen in recent years. We end the review by briefly discussing the emerging area of monitoring fluorescence, chlorophyll fluorescence imaging, field phenotyping, and remote sensing of crops for yield and biomass enhancement.

Keywords: Chlorophyll fluorescence; field; imaging; phenotyping; photosynthesis; protocols; quantum efficiency..

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture
  • Chlorophyll / analysis*
  • Chlorophyll / metabolism
  • Crops, Agricultural
  • Ecology
  • Fluorescence*
  • Fluorometry / methods*
  • Optical Imaging / methods*
  • Phenotype
  • Photosynthesis / physiology
  • Photosystem II Protein Complex / metabolism
  • Plant Leaves / metabolism
  • Plant Physiological Phenomena
  • Plants / metabolism*


  • Photosystem II Protein Complex
  • Chlorophyll