IIT Mandi scientists develop app to detect disease in potato crop using photos

A snapshot of the app developed to detect diseases in potato crop

Scientists from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Mandi, Himachal Pradesh, have developed a computational model for automated disease detection in potato crop using photographs of its leaves. The research led by Srikant Srinivasan, associate professor, School of Computing and Electrical Engineering, IIT Mandi, in collaboration with the Central Potato Research Institute (CPRI), Shimla, uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) techniques to highlight the diseased portions of the leaf.

Funded by the Department of Biotechnology, government of India, the results of this research have recently been published in the journal ‘Plant Phenomics’, in a paper co-authored by Srinivasan, and Shyam K Masakapalli along with research scholars Joe Johnson and Geetanjali Sharma, from IIT Mandi, and Vijay Kumar Dua, Sanjeev Sharma, and Jagdev Sharma, from CPRI, Shimla.

“In India, as with most developing countries, the detection and identification of blight are performed manually by trained personnel who scout the field and visually inspect potato foliage,” Srinivasan explained. He said this process, as expected, is tedious and often impractical, especially for remote areas, because it requires the expertise of a horticultural specialist who may not be physically accessible.

Srikant Srinivasan, associate professor, IIT Mandi

“Automated disease detection can help in this regard and given the extensive proliferation of the mobile phones across the country, the smartphone could be a useful tool in this regard,” research scholar Johnson said, while highlighting the practical usage of his research.

The advanced HD cameras, better computing power and communication avenues offered by smartphones offer a promising platform for automated disease detection in crops, which can save time and help in the timely management of diseases, in cases of outbreaks.

The computational tool developed by the IIT Mandi scientists can detect blight in potato leaf images. The model is built using an AI tool called mask region-based convolutional neural network architecture and can accurately highlight the diseased portions of the leaf amid a complex background of plant and soil matter.

To develop a robust model, healthy and diseased leaf data were collected from fields across Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Himachal. It was important that the model developed should have portability across the nation.

“Analysis of the detection performance indicates an overall precision of 98% on leaf images in field environments,” Srinivasan said.

Following this success, the team is sizing down the model to a few tens of megabytes so that it can be hosted on a smartphone as an application. With this, when the farmer will photograph the leaf which appears unhealthy, the application will confirm in real-time if the leaf is infected or not. With this timely knowledge, the farmer would know exactly when to spray the field, saving his produce and minimising costs associated with unnecessary use of fungicides.

“The model is being refined as more states are covered,” Srinivasan said, adding that it would be deployed as part of the FarmerZone app that will be available to potato farmers for free.

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