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In wheat and other cereals, the number of ears per unit area is one of the main yield determining components. An automatic evaluation of this parameter may contribute to the advance of wheat phenotyping and monitoring. There is no standard protocol for wheat ear counting in the field, and moreover it is time-consuming. An automatic ear counting system is proposed using machine learning techniques based on RGB images acquired from an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). Evaluation was performed on a set of 12 winter wheat cultivars with 3 nitrogen treatments during the 2017-2018 crop season. The automatic system uses a frequency filter, segmentation, and feature extraction with different classification techniques to discriminate wheat ears in micro-plot images. The relationship between the image-based manual counting and the algorithm counting exhibited high accuracy and efficiency. In addition, manual ear counting was conducted in the field for secondary validation. The correlations between the automatic and the manual in-situ ear counting with grain yield were also compared. Correlations between both ear counting systems were strong, particularly for the lower N treatment. Methodological requirements and limitations are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Plant journal : for cell and molecular biology
Publication statusPublished - 5-May-2020

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