Journal article
Digging roots is easier with AI

Publication Details
Han, E.; Smith, A.; Kemper, R.; White, R.; Kirkegaard, J.; Thorup-Kristensen, K.; Athmann, M.
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Journal of experimental botany
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The scale of root quantification in research is often limited by the time required for sampling, measurement, and processing samples. Recent developments in convolutional neural networks (CNNs) have made faster and more accurate plant image analysis possible, which may significantly reduce the time required for root measurement, but challenges remain in making these methods accessible to researchers without an in-depth knowledge of machine learning. We analyzed root images acquired from three destructive root samplings using the RootPainter CNN software that features an interface for corrective annotation for easier use. Root scans with and without non-root debris were used to test if training a model (i.e. learning from labeled examples) can effectively exclude the debris by comparing the end results with measurements from clean images. Root images acquired from soil profile walls and the cross-section of soil cores were also used for training, and the derived measurements were compared with manual measurements. After 200 min of training on each dataset, significant relationships between manual measurements and RootPainter-derived data were noted for monolith (R2=0.99), profile wall (R2=0.76), and core-break (R2=0.57). The rooting density derived from images with debris was not significantly different from that derived from clean images after processing with RootPainter. Rooting density was also successfully calculated from both profile wall and soil core images, and in each case the gradient of root density with depth was not significantly different from manual counts. Differences in root-length density (RLD) between crops with contrasting root systems were captured using automatic segmentation at soil profiles with high RLD (1-5 cm cm-3) as well with low RLD (0.1-0.3 cm cm-3). Our results demonstrate that the proposed approach using CNN can lead to substantial reductions in root sample processing workloads, increasing the potential scale of future root investigations.

Last updated on 2021-14-07 at 10:54