Machine learning-based tassel detection for time-series high throughput plant phenotyping
AbstractUnmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)-based imagery has become widely used in collecting agronomic traits, enabling a much greater volume of data to be generated in a time-series manner. As one of the cutting-edge imagery analysis tools, machine learning-based object detection provides automated techniques to analyze these imagery data. In our previous study, UAVs have been used to collect aerial photography for field trials of 233 diverse inbred lines, grown under different nitrogen treatments. Images were collected during different plant developmental stages throughout the growing season. This dataset of images has here been used in developing machine learning techniques to obtain automated tassel counts at the plot level through the season. To improve detection accuracy, we have developed an image segmentation method to remove non-tassel pixels and then feed these filtered images into machine learning algorithms. As a result, our method showed a significant improvement in the accuracy of maize tassel detection. This method can be used in future research to produce time-series counts of tassels at the plot level, and will allow for accurate estimates of flowering-related traits, such as the earliest detected flowering date and the duration of each plot's flowering period. This phenotypic data and the trait-associated genes provide new opportunities for crop improvement and to facilitate future plant breeding.