In this article, we address the problem of thistle detection in sugar beet fields under natural, outdoor conditions. In our experiments, we used a commercial color camera and extracted vegetation indices from the images. A total of 474 field images of sugar beet and thistles were collected and divided into six different groups based on illumination, scale and age. The feature set was made up of 14 indices. Mahalanobis Distance (MD) and Linear Discriminant Analysis (LDA) were used to classify the species. Among the features, excess green (ExG), green minus blue (GB) and color index for vegetation extraction (CIVE) offered the highest average accuracy, above 90%. The feature set was reduced to four important indices following a PCA analysis, but the classification accuracy was similar to that obtained by only combining ExG and GB which was around 95%, still better than an individual index. Stepwise linear regression selected nine out of 14 features and offered the highest accuracy of 97%. The results of LDA and MD were fairly close, making them both equally preferable. Finally, the results were validated by annotating images containing both sugar beet and thistles using the trained classifiers. The validation experiments showed that sunlight followed by the size of the plant, which is related to its growth stage, are the two most important factors affecting the classification. In this study, the best results were achieved for images of young sugar beet (in the seventh week) under a shade.
Computers and Electronics in Agriculture, 2015, Vol 112, p. 10-19