Remote sensing and vegetation indices can be used to describe and characterize the canopy of plant stands with a non-destructive method in a large scale. Leaf area formation of sugar beet in spring and early summer is a good parameter to describe for the developmental stage of the plants. For yield formation the early closure of the canopy is very important. However, there are many factors which influence the leaf area development of sugar beet. This study aimed at testing, whether differences in leaf area development of sugar beet could be estimated with remote sensing and the calculation of the NDVI (Normalized Differential Vegetation Index, ratio between red and NIR radiation). For this purpose sugar beet field trials were carried out in 2001 and 2002 with different treatments (N application, sowing date, weeds, plant population, damage due to herbicide application, soil compaction, varieties, boron deficiency, Cercospora - leaf spot disease, Rhizoctonia). The leaf area of sugar beet varied from 0.5 to 8 m2 as affected by the treatments und season. The NDVI gave a good impression of differences in leaf development in the sugar beet field, although it did not respond as distinctly to treatments as the leaf area index. Therefore, the relationship between leaf area index and NDVI was not linear.