Detection of banana plants and their major diseases through aerial images and machine learning methods: A case study in DR Congo and Republic of Benin

Front-line remote sensing tools, coupled with machine learning (ML), have a significant role in crop monitoring and disease surveillance. Crop type classification and a disease early warning system are some of these remote sensing applications that provide precise, timely, and cost-effective information at different spatial, temporal, and spectral resolutions. To our knowledge, most disease surveillance systems focus on a single-sensor based solutions and lagging the integration of multiple information sources. Moreover, monitoring larger landscapes using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) are challenging, and, therefore combining high resolution satellite imagery data with advanced machine learning (ML) models through the use of mobile apps could help detect and classify banana plants and provide more information on its overall health status. In this study, we classified banana under mixed-complex African landscapes through pixel-based classifications and ML models derived from multi-level satellite images (Sentinel 2, PlanetScope and WorldView-2) and UAV (MicaSense RedEdge) platforms. Our pixel-based classification from random forest (RF) model using combined features of vegetation indices (VIs) and principal component analysis (PCA) showed up to 97% overall accuracy (OA) with less than 10% omission and commission errors (OE and CE) and Kappa coefficient of 0.96 in high resolution multispectral images. We used UAV-RGB aerial images from DR Congo and Republic of Benin fields to develop a mixed-model system combining object detection model (RetinaNet) and a custom classifier for simultaneous banana localization and disease classification. Their accuracies were tested using different performance metrics. Our UAV-RGB mixed-model revealed that the developed object detection and classification model successfully classified healthy and diseased plants with 99.4%, 92.8%, 93.3% and 90.8% accuracy for the four classes: banana bunchy top disease (BBTD), Xanthomonas Wilt of Banana (BXW), healthy banana cluster and individual banana plants, respectively. These approaches of aerial image-based ML models have high potential to provide a decision support system for major banana diseases in Africa