A Convolutional Neural Network-Based Method for Corn Stand Counting in the Field

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Wang, Le
Xiang, Lirong
Jiang, Huanyu
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Tang, Lie
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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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Accurate corn stand count in the field at early season is of great interest to corn breeders and plant geneticists. However, the commonly used manual counting method is time consuming, laborious, and prone to error. Nowadays, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) tend to be a popular base for plant-image-collecting platforms. However, detecting corn stands in the field is a challenging task, primarily because of camera motion, leaf fluttering caused by wind, shadows of plants caused by direct sunlight, and the complex soil background. As for the UAV system, there are mainly two limitations for early seedling detection and counting. First, flying height cannot ensure a high resolution for small objects. It is especially difficult to detect early corn seedlings at around one week after planting, because the plants are small and difficult to differentiate from the background. Second, the battery life and payload of UAV systems cannot support long-duration online counting work. In this research project, we developed an automated, robust, and high-throughput method for corn stand counting based on color images extracted from video clips. A pipeline developed based on the YoloV3 network and Kalman filter was used to count corn seedlings online. The results demonstrate that our method is accurate and reliable for stand counting, achieving an accuracy of over 98% at growth stages V2 and V3 (vegetative stages with two and three visible collars) with an average frame rate of 47 frames per second (FPS). This pipeline can also be mounted easily on manned cart, tractor, or field robotic systems for online corn counting.
This article is published as Wang, Le, Lirong Xiang, Lie Tang, and Huanyu Jiang. "A convolutional neural network-based method for corn stand counting in the field." Sensors 21, no. 2 (2021): 507. DOI: 10.3390/s21020507. Copyright 2021 by the authors. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0). Posted with permission.