Monitoring of Chestnut Trees Using Machine Learning Techniques Applied to UAV-Based Multispectral Data

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Emanuel Peres Correia
Luís Filipe Pádua
António Ribeiro Sousa
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<jats:p>Phytosanitary conditions can hamper the normal development of trees and significantly impact their yield. The phytosanitary condition of chestnut stands is usually evaluated by sampling trees followed by a statistical extrapolation process, making it a challenging task, as it is labor-intensive and requires skill. In this study, a novel methodology that enables multi-temporal analysis of chestnut stands using multispectral imagery acquired from unmanned aerial vehicles is presented. Data were collected in different flight campaigns along with field surveys to identify the phytosanitary issues affecting each tree. A random forest classifier was trained with sections of each tree crown using vegetation indices and spectral bands. These were first categorized into two classes: (i) absence or (ii) presence of phytosanitary issues. Subsequently, the class with phytosanitary issues was used to identify and classify either biotic or abiotic factors. The comparison between the classification results, obtained by the presented methodology, with ground-truth data, allowed us to conclude that phytosanitary problems were detected with an accuracy rate between 86% and 91%. As for determining the specific phytosanitary issue, rates between 80% and 85% were achieved. Higher accuracy rates were attained in the last flight campaigns, the stage when symptoms are more prevalent. The proposed methodology proved to be effective in automatically detecting and classifying phytosanitary issues in chestnut trees throughout the growing season. Moreover, it is also able to identify decline or expansion situations. It may be of help as part of decision support systems that further improve on the efficient and sustainable management practices of chestnut stands.</jats:p>