SeedQuant: A Deep Learning-based Census Tool for Seed Germination of Root Parasitic Plants

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


Witchweeds and broomrapes are root parasitic weeds that represent one of the main threats to global food security. By drastically reducing host crops’ yield, the parasites are often responsible for enormous economic losses estimated in billions of dollars annually. Parasitic plants rely on a chemical cue in the rhizosphere, indicating the presence of a host plant in proximity. Using this host dependency, research in parasitic plants focuses on understanding the necessary triggers for parasitic seeds germination, to either reduce their germination in presence of crops or provoke germination without hosts (i.e. suicidal germination). For this purpose, a number of synthetic analogs and inhibitors have been developed and their biological activities studied on parasitic plants around the world using various protocols. Current studies are using germination-based bioassays, where pre-conditioned parasitic seeds are placed in the presence of a chemical or plant root exudates, from which the germination ratio is assessed. Although these protocols are very sensitive at the chemical level, the germination rate recording is time consuming, represents a challenging task for researchers, and could easily be sped up leveraging automated seeds detection algorithms. In order to accelerate such protocols, we propose an automatic seed censing tool using computer vision latest development. We use a deep learning approach for object detection with the algorithm Faster R-CNN to count and discriminate germinated from non-germinated seeds. Our method has shown an accuracy of 95% in counting seeds on completely new images, and reduces the counting time by a significant margin, from 5 min to a fraction of second per image. We believe our proposed software 5 “SeedQuant” will be of great help for lab bioassays to perform large scale chemicals screening for parasitic seeds applications.
Date of AwardApr 30 2020
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Computer, Electrical and Mathematical Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorBernard Ghanem (Supervisor)


  • computer vision
  • census tool
  • seed counting
  • deep learning

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