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In Frontiers in plant science

Wheat stripe rust is one of the main wheat diseases worldwide, which has significantly adverse effects on wheat yield and quality, posing serious threats on food security. Disease severity grading plays a paramount role in stripe rust disease management including breeding disease-resistant wheat varieties. Manual inspection is time-consuming, labor-intensive and prone to human errors, therefore, there is a clearly urgent need to develop more effective and efficient disease grading strategy by using automated approaches. However, the differences between wheat leaves of different levels of stripe rust infection are usually tiny and subtle, and, as a result, ordinary deep learning networks fail to achieve satisfying performance. By formulating this challenge as a fine-grained image classification problem, this study proposes a novel deep learning network C-DenseNet which embeds Convolutional Block Attention Module (CBAM) in the densely connected convolutional network (DenseNet). The performance of C-DenseNet and its variants is demonstrated via a newly collected wheat stripe rust grading dataset (WSRgrading dataset) at Northwest A&F University, Shaanxi Province, China, which contains a total of 5,242 wheat leaf images with 6 levels of stripe rust infection. The dataset was collected by using various mobile devices in the natural field condition. Comparative experiments show that C-DenseNet with a test accuracy of 97.99% outperforms the classical DenseNet (92.53%) and ResNet (73.43%). GradCAM++ network visualization also shows that C-DenseNet is able to pay more attention to the key areas in making the decision. It is concluded that C-DenseNet with an attention mechanism is suitable for wheat stripe rust disease grading in field conditions.

Mi Zhiwen, Zhang Xudong, Su Jinya, Han Dejun, Su Baofeng


C-DenseNet, CBAM module, attention mechanism, disease grading, wheat stripe rust