Red Palm Weevil Detection in Date Palm Using Temporal UAV Imagery

Delalieux, Stephanie; Hardy, Tom; Ferry, Michel; Gomez, Susi; Kooistra, Lammert; Culman, Maria; Tits, Laurent


Red palm weevil (RPW) is widely considered a key pest of palms, creating extensive damages to the date palm trunk that inevitably leads to palm death if no pest eradication is done. This study evaluates the potential of a remote sensing approach for the timely and reliable detection of RPW infestation on the palm canopy. For two consecutive years, an experimental field with infested and control palms was regularly monitored by an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) carrying RGB, multispectral, and thermal sensors. Simultaneously, detailed visual observations of the RPW effects on the palms were made to assess the evolution of infestation from the initial stage until palm death. A UAV-based image processing chain for nondestructive RPW detection was built based on segmentation and vegetation index analysis techniques. These algorithms reveal the potential of thermal data to detect RPW infestation. Maximum temperature values and standard deviations within the palm crown revealed a significant (α = 0.05) difference between infested and non-infested palms at a severe infestation stage but before any visual canopy symptoms were noticed. Furthermore, this proof-of-concept study showed that the temporal monitoring of spectral vegetation index values could contribute to the detection of infested palms before canopy symptoms are visible. The seasonal significant (α = 0.05) increase of greenness index values, as observed in non-infested trees, could not be observed in infested palms. These findings are of added value for steering management practices and future related studies, but further validation of the results is needed. The workflow and resulting maps are accessible through the Mapeo® visualization platform.