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The estimation of crop emergence in potatoes by UAV RGB imagery

Li, Bo, Xu, Xiangming, Han, Jiwan, Zhang, Li, Bian, Chunsong, Jin, Liping, Liu, Jiangang
Plant methods 2019 v.15 no.1 pp. 15
Solanum tuberosum, canopy, compound fertilizers, computer software, cultivars, field experimentation, image analysis, phenotype, potassium, potassium fertilizers, potatoes, screening, soil, unmanned aerial vehicles, yield forecasting
BACKGROUND: Crop emergence and canopy cover are important physiological traits for potato (Solanum tuberosum L.) cultivar evaluation and nutrients management. They play important roles in variety screening, field management and yield prediction. Traditional manual assessment of these traits is not only laborious but often subjective. RESULTS: In this study, semi-automated image analysis software was developed to estimate crop emergence from high-resolution RGB ortho-images captured from an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). Potato plant objects were extracted from bare soil using Excess Green Index and Otsu thresholding methods. Six morphological features were calculated from the images to be variables of a Random Forest classifier for estimating the number of potato plants at emergence stage. The outputs were then used to estimate crop emergence in three field experiments that were designed to investigate the effects of cultivars, levels of potassium (K) fertiliser input, and new compound fertilisers on potato growth. The results indicated that RGB UAV image analysis can accurately estimate potato crop emergence rate in comparison to manual assessment, with correlation coefficient ([Formula: see text]) of 0.96 and provide an efficient tool to evaluate emergence uniformity. CONCLUSIONS: The proposed UAV image analysis method is a promising tool for use as a high throughput phenotyping method for assessing potato crop development at emergence stage. It can also facilitate future studies on optimizing fertiliser management and improving emergence consistency.