Laurel wilt, caused by the fungus Raffaelea lauricola, affects the growth, development, and productivity of avocado, Persea americana. This study evaluated the potential of visible-near infrared spectroscopy for non-destructive sensing of this disease. The symptoms of laurel wilt are visually similar to those caused by freeze damage (leaf necrosis). In this work, we performed classification studies with visible-near infrared spectra of asymptomatic and symptomatic leaves from infected plants, as well as leaves from freeze-damaged and healthy plants, both of which were non-infected. The principal component scores computed from principal component analysis were used as input features in four classifiers: linear discriminant analysis, quadratic discriminant analysis (QDA), Naïve-Bayes classifier, and bagged decision trees (BDT). Among the classifiers, QDA and BDT resulted in classification accuracies of higher than 94% when classifying asymptomatic leaves from infected plants. All of the classifiers were able to discriminate symptomatic-infected leaves from freeze-damaged leaves. However, the false negatives mainly resulted from asymptomatic-infected leaves being classified as healthy. Analyses of average vegetation indices of freeze-damaged, healthy (non-infected), asymptomatic-infected, and symptomatic-infected leaves indicated that the normalized difference vegetation index and the simple ratio index were statistically different.
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