Volunteer potato is a perennial weed that is difficult to control in crop rotations. It was our objective to build a small, low-cost robot capable of detecting volunteer potato plants in a cornfield and thus demonstrate the potential for automatic control of this weed. We used an electric toy truck as the basis for our robot. We developed a fast row-recognition algorithm based on the Hough transform and implemented it using a webcam. We developed an algorithm that detects the presence of a potato plant based on a combination of size, shape, and color of the green elements in an image and implemented it using a second webcam. The robot was able to detect potatoes while navigating autonomously through experimental and commercial cornfields. In a first experiment, 319 out of 324 images were correctly classified (98.5%) as showing, or not showing, a potato plant. In a second experiment, 126 out of 141 images were correctly classified (89.4%). Detection of a potato plant resulted in an acoustic signal, but future robots may be fitted with weed control equipment, or they may use a global positioning system to map the presence of weed plants so that regular equipment can be used for control.
Nomenclature: Corn, Zea mays L, Potato, Solanum tuberosum L.
Additional index words: Autonomous navigation, autonomous weeding, glyphosate, machine-vision, site-specific weed control.
Abbreviations: DIPlib, Delft image-processing library; DSP, digital signal processor; GPS, global positioning system; JPEG, Joint Photographic Experts Group; NiMh, nickle metal hydride; PC, personal computer.