Date of Award

Spring 2021

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Management of Information System and Technology, PhD

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Brian Hilton

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Lorne Olfman

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Zachary Dodds


Production of food crops is hampered by the proliferation of crop diseases which cause huge harvest losses. Current crop-health monitoring programs involve the deployment of scouts and experts to detect and identify crop diseases through visual observation. These monitoring schemes are expensive and too slow to offer timely remedial recommendations for preventing the spread of these crop-damaging diseases. There is thus a need for the development of cheaper and faster methods for identifying and monitoring crop diseases. Recent advances in deep learning have enabled the development of automatic and accurate image classification systems. These advances coupled with the widespread availability of multispectral aerial imagery provide a cost-effective method for developing crop-diseases classification tools. However, large datasets are required to train deep learning models, which may be costly and difficult to obtain. Fortunately, models trained on one task can be repurposed for different tasks (with limited data) using transfer learning technique. The purpose of this research was to develop and implement an end-to-end deep learning framework for early detection and continuous monitoring of crop diseases using transfer learning and high resolution, multispectral aerial imagery. In the first study, the technique was used to compare the performance of five pre-trained deep learning convolutional neural networks (VGG16, VGG19, ResNet50, Inception V3, and Xception) in classifying crop diseases for apples, grapes, and tomatoes. The results of the study show that the best performing crop-disease classification models were those trained on the VGG16 network, while those trained on the ResNet50 network had the worst performance. The other studies compared the performance of using transfer learning and different three-band color combinations to train single- and multiple-crop classification models. The results of these studies show that models combining red, near infrared, and blue bands performed better than models trained with the traditional visible spectral band combination of red, green, and blue. The worst performing models were those combining near infrared, green, and blue bands. This research recommends that further studies be undertaken to determine the best band combinations for training single- and multi-label classification models for both crops and plants and diseases that affect them.