Field-based scoring of soybean iron deficiency chlorosis using RGB imaging and statistical learning

Geng Bai, Shawn Jenkins, Wenan Yuan, George L. Graef, Yufeng Ge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Iron deficiency chlorosis (IDC) is an abiotic stress in soybean that can cause significant biomass and yield reduction. IDC is characterized by stunted growth and yellowing and interveinal chlorosis of early trifoliate leaves. Scoring IDC severity in the field is conventionally done by visual assessment. The goal of this study was to investigate the usefulness of Red Green Blue (RGB) images of soybean plots captured under the field condition for IDC scoring. A total of 64 soybean lines with four replicates were planted in 6 fields over 2 years. Visual scoring (referred to as Field Score, or FS) was conducted at V3–V4 growth stage; and concurrently RGB images of the field plots were recorded with a high-throughput field phenotyping platform. A second set of IDC scores was done on the plot images (displayed on a computer screen) consistently by one person in the office (referred to as Office Score, or OS). Plot images were then processed to remove weeds and extract six color features, which were used to train computer-based IDC scoring models (referred to as Computer Score, or CS) using linear discriminant analysis (LDA) and support vector machine (SVM). The results showed that, in the fields where severe IDC symptoms were present, FS and OS were strongly positively correlated with each other, and both of them were strongly negatively correlated with yield. CS could satisfactorily predict IDC scores when evaluated using FS and OS as the reference (overall classification accuracy > 81%). SVM models appeared to outperform LDA models; and the SVM model trained to predict IDC OS gave the highest prediction accuracy. It was anticipated that coupling RGB imaging from the high-throughput field phenotyping platform with real-time image processing and IDC CS models would lead to a more rapid, cost-effective, and objective scoring pipeline for soybean IDC field screening and breeding.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1002
JournalFrontiers in Plant Science
StatePublished - Jul 11 2018


  • Abiotic stress
  • High throughput phenotyping
  • Image processing
  • Linear discriminant analysis
  • Support vector machine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science


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