Researchers at Florida Polytechnic University developed new technology that could make detecting citrus greening easier and more affordable.
Since 2006, citrus greening has cost Florida more than $3.6 billion in lost revenue. The state has lost an estimated 7,000 jobs because of reduced orange juice production in the state known for its oranges.
Infected trees produce fruits that are green and bitter, which are unsuitable for fresh fruit or juice.
“Citrus greening has posed a terrible threat to crops locally and worldwide as it has no cure,” said Muhammad Abid, assistant professor of computer science and lead researcher on the project.
The school’s method uses a Citrus Greening Detection (CiGID) algorithm through computer vision techniques that extracts sub-images of fruit from a tree to determine if they show signs of infection. A sub-image converts images to true-color for display purposes.
Under the school’s research, the algorithm would be used in camera systems installed on vehicles used for tree monitoring in groves. The cameras would capture images that the algorithm would use to automatically identify if the fruit is infected.
“Normally an expert needs to come to the groves to check every tree identified as possibly infected,” said Charles Soini, a computer science graduate who has been working on the research for the last six months. “This new system does that work, so the expert only needs to check the ones already identified as sick and confirm it.”
Researchers tested the technique using a Google script that produced around 93 percent validation accuracy by sampling around 60 test images of both infected and non-infected fruit. They also tested manually using a different set of 50 images of citrus trees, with an accuracy of 80 percent.
“This method is unique and novel due to its simplicity,” Abid said. “Our intention is to use less expensive hardware to reduce costs. We don’t use any infrared device, 3D cameras, or any sophisticated costly technology. We rely on simple, affordable cameras to get video or pictures to feed the algorithm.”
Citrus greening is one of the most serious citrus plant diseases in the world, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A 2018 report from the Florida Department of Citrus estimated there were 750,000 acres of citrus groves in 2004. By last year, those numbers had dropped to 455,000 acres.
Researchers presented its findings at the International Conference on Information System and Data Mining at the University of Houston in Texas last month.
Results will also be published in the International Conference Proceedings Series by the Association for Computer Machinery.