Structural Component Phenotypic Traits from Individual Maize Skeletonization by UAS-Based Structure-from-Motion Photogrammetry

Monica Herrero-Huerta, Diego Gonzalez-Aguilera, Yang Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The bottleneck in plant breeding programs is to have cost-effective high-throughput phenotyping methodologies to efficiently describe the new lines and hybrids developed. In this paper, we propose a fully automatic approach to overcome not only the individual maize extraction but also the trait quantification challenge of structural components from unmanned aerial system (UAS) imagery. The experimental setup was carried out at the Indiana Corn and Soybean Innovation Center at the Agronomy Center for Research and Education (ACRE) in West Lafayette (IN, USA). On 27 July and 3 August 2021, two flights were performed over maize trials using a custom-designed UAS platform with a Sony Alpha ILCE-7R photogrammetric sensor onboard. RGB images were processed using a standard photogrammetric pipeline based on structure from motion (SfM) to obtain a final scaled 3D point cloud of the study field. Individual plants were extracted by, first, semantically segmenting the point cloud into ground and maize using 3D deep learning. Secondly, we employed a connected component algorithm to the maize end-members. Finally, once individual plants were accurately extracted, we robustly applied a Laplacian-based contraction skeleton algorithm to compute several structural component traits from each plant. The results from phenotypic traits such as height and number of leaves show a determination coefficient (R2) with on-field and digital measurements, respectively, better than 90%. Our test trial reveals the viability of extracting several phenotypic traits of individual maize using a skeletonization approach on the basis of a UAS imagery-based point cloud. As a limitation of the methodology proposed, we highlight that the lack of plant occlusions in the UAS images obtains a more complete point cloud of the plant, giving more accuracy in the extracted traits.

Original languageEnglish
Article number108
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • deep learning
  • phenotyping
  • photogrammetry
  • skeleton
  • unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)


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