Design and field evaluation of a ground robot for high-throughput phenotyping of energy sorghum

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Young, Sierra
Kayacan, Erkan
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Peschel, Joshua
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Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering

Since 1905, the Department of Agricultural Engineering, now the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering (ABE), has been a leader in providing engineering solutions to agricultural problems in the United States and the world. The department’s original mission was to mechanize agriculture. That mission has evolved to encompass a global view of the entire food production system–the wise management of natural resources in the production, processing, storage, handling, and use of food fiber and other biological products.

In 1905 Agricultural Engineering was recognized as a subdivision of the Department of Agronomy, and in 1907 it was recognized as a unique department. It was renamed the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering in 1990. The department merged with the Department of Industrial Education and Technology in 2004.

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  • Department of Agricultural Engineering (1907–1990)

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This article describes the design and field evaluation of a low-cost, high-throughput phenotyping robot for energy sorghum for use in biofuel production. High-throughput phenotyping approaches have been used in isolated growth chambers or greenhouses, but there is a growing need for field-based, precision agriculture techniques to measure large quantities of plants at high spatial and temporal resolutions throughout a growing season. A low-cost, tracked mobile robot was developed to collect phenotypic data for individual plants and tested on two separate energy sorghum fields in Central Illinois during summer 2016. Stereo imaging techniques determined plant height, and a depth sensor measured stem width near the base of the plant. A data capture rate of 0.4 ha, bi-weekly, was demonstrated for platform robustness consistent with various environmental conditions and crop yield modeling needs, and formative human–robot interaction observations were made during the field trials to address usability. This work is of interest to researchers and practitioners advancing the field of plant breeding because it demonstrates a new phenotyping platform that can measure individual plant architecture traits accurately (absolute measurement error at 15% for plant height and 13% for stem width) over large areas at a sub-daily frequency; furthermore, the design of this platform can be extended for phenotyping applications in maize or other agricultural row crops.


This article is published as Young, Sierra N., Erkan Kayacan, and Joshua M. Peschel. "Design and field evaluation of a ground robot for high-throughput phenotyping of energy sorghum." Precision Agriculture (2018). DOI: 10.1007/s11119-018-9601-6. Posted with permission.

Mon Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2018