Unmanned Aerial System-Based Weed Mapping in Sod Production Using a Convolutional Neural Network

Front Plant Sci. 2021 Nov 26;12:702626. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2021.702626. eCollection 2021.


Weeds are a persistent problem on sod farms, and herbicides to control different weed species are one of the largest chemical inputs. Recent advances in unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and artificial intelligence provide opportunities for weed mapping on sod farms. This study investigates the weed type composition and area through both ground and UAS-based weed surveys and trains a convolutional neural network (CNN) for identifying and mapping weeds in sod fields using UAS-based imagery and a high-level application programming interface (API) implementation (Fastai) of the PyTorch deep learning library. The performance of the CNN was overall similar to, and in some classes (broadleaf and spurge) better than, human eyes indicated by the metric recall. In general, the CNN detected broadleaf, grass weeds, spurge, sedge, and no weeds at a precision between 0.68 and 0.87, 0.57 and 0.82, 0.68 and 0.83, 0.66 and 0.90, and 0.80 and 0.88, respectively, when using UAS images at 0.57 cm-1.28 cm pixel-1 resolution. Recall ranges for the five classes were 0.78-0.93, 0.65-0.87, 0.82-0.93, 0.52-0.79, and 0.94-0.99. Additionally, this study demonstrates that a CNN can achieve precision and recall above 0.9 at detecting different types of weeds during turf establishment when the weeds are mature. The CNN is limited by the image resolution, and more than one model may be needed in practice to improve the overall performance of weed mapping.

Keywords: Bermudagrass; Fastai; RGB imagery; ResNet; artificial intelligence.