A deep learning framework to discern and count microscopic nematode eggs

Adedotun Akintayo, Iowa State University
Gregory L. Tylka, Iowa State University
Asheesh K. Singh, Iowa State University
Baskar Ganapathysubramanian, Iowa State University
Arti Singh, Iowa State University
Soumik Sarkar, Iowa State University

This article is published as Akintayo, Adedotun, Gregory L. Tylka, Asheesh K. Singh, Baskar Ganapathysubramanian, Arti Singh, and Soumik Sarkar. "A deep learning framework to discern and count microscopic nematode eggs." Scientific Reports 8, no. 1 (2018): 9145. DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-27272-w. Posted with permission.


In order to identify and control the menace of destructive pests via microscopic image-based identification state-of-the art deep learning architecture is demonstrated on the parasitic worm, the soybean cyst nematode (SCN), Heterodera glycines. Soybean yield loss is negatively correlated with the density of SCN eggs that are present in the soil. While there has been progress in automating extraction of egg-filled cysts and eggs from soil samples counting SCN eggs obtained from soil samples using computer vision techniques has proven to be an extremely difficult challenge. Here we show that a deep learning architecture developed for rare object identification in clutter-filled images can identify and count the SCN eggs. The architecture is trained with expert-labeled data to effectively build a machine learning model for quantifying SCN eggs via microscopic image analysis. We show dramatic improvements in the quantification time of eggs while maintaining human-level accuracy and avoiding inter-rater and intra-rater variabilities. The nematode eggs are correctly identified even in complex, debris-filled images that are often difficult for experts to identify quickly. Our results illustrate the remarkable promise of applying deep learning approaches to phenotyping for pest assessment and management.