Weed-detecting reflectance sensors were modified to allow selective interrogation of the near infrared–red ratio to estimate differences in plant biomass. Sampling was programmed to correspond to the forward movement of the field of view of the sensors. There was a linear relationship (r
2 > 0.80) between actual biomass and crop canopy analyzer (CCA) values up to 2,000 kg/ha for winter wheat sequentially thinned to create different amounts of biomass and up to 1,000 kg/ha for spring wheat sampled at different stages of development. At higher amounts of biomass the sensors underestimated the actual biomass. A linear relationship (r
2 = 0.73) was obtained with the CCA for the biomass of 76 chickpea cultivars at 500 growing degree days (GDD500). The reflectance sensors were used to determine differences in the herbicide response of soybean cultivars sprayed with increasing rates of herbicides. The CCA data resulted in better dose–response relationships than did biomass data for bromoxynil at 0.8 kg ai/ha and glyphosate at 1.35 kg ai/ha. There was no phytotoxicity to soybean with imazethapyr at 1.44 kg ai/ha. The method offers a quick and nondestructive means to measure differences in early-season crop growth. It also has potential in selecting crop cultivars with greater seedling vigor, as an indicator of crop nutrient status, in plant disease assessment, in determining crop cultivar responses to increasing herbicide dose rates, in weed mapping, and in studying temporal changes in crop or weed biomass.