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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available October 1, 2024
  2. Maize (Zea mays L.) is one of the three major cereal crops in the world. Leaf angle is an important architectural trait of crops due to its substantial role in light interception by the canopy and hence photosynthetic efficiency. Traditionally, leaf angle has been measured using a protractor, a process that is both slow and laborious. Efficiently measuring leaf angle under field conditions via imaging is challenging due to leaf density in the canopy and the resulting occlusions. However, advances in imaging technologies and machine learning have provided new tools for image acquisition and analysis that could be used to characterize leaf angle using three-dimensional (3D) models of field-grown plants. In this study, PhenoBot 3.0, a robotic vehicle designed to traverse between pairs of agronomically spaced rows of crops, was equipped with multiple tiers of PhenoStereo cameras to capture side-view images of maize plants in the field. PhenoStereo is a customized stereo camera module with integrated strobe lighting for high-speed stereoscopic image acquisition under variable outdoor lighting conditions. An automated image processing pipeline (AngleNet) was developed to measure leaf angles of nonoccluded leaves. In this pipeline, a novel representation form of leaf angle as a triplet of keypoints was proposed. The pipeline employs convolutional neural networks to detect each leaf angle in two-dimensional images and 3D modeling approaches to extract quantitative data from reconstructed models. Our study demonstrates the feasibility of using stereo vision to investigate the distribution of leaf angles in maize under field conditions. The proposed system is an efficient alternative to traditional leaf angle phenotyping and thus could accelerate breeding for improved plant architecture. 
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  3. null (Ed.)
    High-throughput phenotyping enables the efficient collection of plant trait data at scale. One example involves using imaging systems over key phases of a crop growing season. Although the resulting images provide rich data for statistical analyses of plant phenotypes, image processing for trait extraction is required as a prerequisite. Current methods for trait extraction are mainly based on supervised learning with human labeled data or semisupervised learning with a mixture of human labeled data and unsupervised data. Unfortunately, preparing a sufficiently large training data is both time and labor-intensive. We describe a self-supervised pipeline (KAT4IA) that uses K -means clustering on greenhouse images to construct training data for extracting and analyzing plant traits from an image-based field phenotyping system. The KAT4IA pipeline includes these main steps: self-supervised training set construction, plant segmentation from images of field-grown plants, automatic separation of target plants, calculation of plant traits, and functional curve fitting of the extracted traits. To deal with the challenge of separating target plants from noisy backgrounds in field images, we describe a novel approach using row-cuts and column-cuts on images segmented by transform domain neural network learning, which utilizes plant pixels identified from greenhouse images to train a segmentation model for field images. This approach is efficient and does not require human intervention. Our results show that KAT4IA is able to accurately extract plant pixels and estimate plant heights. 
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  4. Abstract Background

    The maize inbred line A188 is an attractive model for elucidation of gene function and improvement due to its high embryogenic capacity and many contrasting traits to the first maize reference genome, B73, and other elite lines. The lack of a genome assembly of A188 limits its use as a model for functional studies.


    Here, we present a chromosome-level genome assembly of A188 using long reads and optical maps. Comparison of A188 with B73 using both whole-genome alignments and read depths from sequencing reads identify approximately 1.1 Gb of syntenic sequences as well as extensive structural variation, including a 1.8-Mb duplication containing the Gametophyte factor1 locus for unilateral cross-incompatibility, and six inversions of 0.7 Mb or greater. Increased copy number of carotenoid cleavage dioxygenase 1 (ccd1) in A188 is associated with elevated expression during seed development. Highccd1expression in seeds together with low expression of yellow endosperm 1 (y1) reduces carotenoid accumulation, accounting for the white seed phenotype of A188. Furthermore, transcriptome and epigenome analyses reveal enhanced expression of defense pathways and altered DNA methylation patterns of the embryonic callus.


    The A188 genome assembly provides a high-resolution sequence for a complex genome species and a foundational resource for analyses of genome variation and gene function in maize. The genome, in comparison to B73, contains extensive intra-species structural variations and other genetic differences. Expression and network analyses identify discrete profiles for embryonic callus and other tissues.

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