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Utilizing image processing techniques to compute herbivory.

Leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula L. sensu lato) is a perennial weed species common to the north-central United States and southern Canada. The plant is a foreign species toxic to cattle. Spurge infestation can reduce cattle carrying capacity by 50 to 75 percent [1]. University of Wyoming Entomology doctoral candidate Vonny Barlow is conducting research in the area of biological control of leafy spurge via the Aphthona nigriscutis Foudras flea beetle. He is addressing the question of variability within leafy spurge and its potential impact on flea beetle herbivory. One component of Barlow's research consists of measuring the herbivory of leafy spurge plant specimens after introducing adult beetles. Herbivory is the degree of consumption of the plant's leaves and was measured in two different manners. First, Barlow assigned each consumed plant specimen a visual rank from 1 to 5. Second, image processing techniques were applied to "before" and "after" images of each plant specimen in an attempt to more accurately quantify herbivory. Standardized techniques were used to acquire images before and after beetles were allowed to feed on plants for a period of 12 days. Matlab was used as the image processing tool. The image processing algorithm allowed the user to crop the portion of the "before" image containing only plant foliage. Then Matlab cropped the "after" image with the same dimensions, converted the images from RGB to grayscale. The grayscale image was converted to binary based on a user defined threshold value. Finally, herbivory was computed based on the number of black pixels in the "before" and "after" images. The image processing results were mixed. Although, this image processing technique depends on user input and non-ideal images, the data is useful to Barlow's research and offers insight into better imaging systems and processing algorithms.[1]


  1. Utilizing image processing techniques to compute herbivory. Olson, T.E., Barlow, V.M. Biomedical sciences instrumentation. (2001) [Pubmed]
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