Leaf area index (LAI) is a key biophysical parameter commonly used to determine vegetation status, productivity, and health in tropical grasslands. Accurate LAI estimates are useful in supporting sustainable rangeland management by providing information related to grassland condition and associated goods and services. The performance of support vector regression (SVR) was compared to partial least square regression (PLSR) on selected optimal hyperspectral bands to detect LAI in heterogeneous grassland. Results show that PLSR performed better than SVR at the beginning and end of summer. At the peak of the growing season (mid-summer), during reflectance saturation, SVR models yielded higher accuracies (R2=0.902 and RMSE=0.371 m2 m−2) than PLSR models (R2=0.886 and RMSE=0.379 m2 m−2). For the combined dataset (all of summer), SVR models were slightly more accurate (R2=0.74 and RMSE=0.578 m2 m−2) than PLSR models (R2=0.732 and RMSE=0.58 m2 m−2). Variable importance on the projection scores show that most of the bands were located in the near-infrared and shortwave regions of the electromagnetic spectrum, thus providing a basis to investigate the potential of sensors on aerial and satellite platforms for large-scale grassland LAI prediction.