Connected attribute morphology for unified vegetation segmentation and classification in precision agriculture

Comput Ind. 2018 Jun;98:226-240. doi: 10.1016/j.compind.2018.02.003.


Discriminating value crops from weeds is an important task in precision agriculture. In this paper, we propose a novel image processing pipeline based on attribute morphology for both the segmentation and classification tasks. The commonly used approaches for vegetation segmentation often rely on thresholding techniques which reach their decisions globally. By contrast, the proposed method works with connected components obtained by image threshold decomposition, which are naturally nested in a hierarchical structure called the max-tree, and various attributes calculated from these regions. Image segmentation is performed by attribute filtering, preserving or discarding the regions based on their attribute value and allowing for the decision to be reached locally. This segmentation method naturally selects a collection of foreground regions rather than pixels, and the same data structure used for segmentation can be further reused to provide the features for classification, which is realised in our experiments by a support vector machine (SVM). We apply our methods to normalised difference vegetation index (NDVI) images, and demonstrate the performance of the pipeline on a dataset collected by the authors in an onion field, as well as a publicly available dataset for sugar beets. The results show that the proposed segmentation approach can segment the fine details of plant regions locally, in contrast to the state-of-the-art thresholding methods, while providing discriminative features which enable efficient and competitive classification rates for crop/weed discrimination.

Keywords: Attribute morphology; Crop/weed discrimination; Max-tree; Precision agriculture.