New technologies have been developed for automated separation of seeds that are discolored, blemished, infected by fungi, or from different species. This technology uses a newly developed "smart" camera developed in the USDA's Engineering & Wind Erosion Research Unit (EWERU) lab that enables high speed image capture and digital processing of images from each individual seed as they drop off the end of a chute.
All of the red, green, and blue pixels of the color images are used by the new "smart" camera to classify each seed using modern pattern recognition technologies. In contrast, traditional color sorters only use one or two colors and divert seeds if one or both of the colors exceed a level
that is manually set by the operators. As such, the new image based system is able separate seeds having low color contrast at much higher accuracies than traditional sorting machines.
The system is able to separate seeds by minor color differences that are hard to distinguish by the human eye. Furthermore, the image can be used to identify small blemishes on seeds that are not large enough to be detected by traditional color sorters. While the throughput of the image based system is not as large as commercial color sorting machines, the cost is also much lower, making the technology accessible to most seed breeders and seed foundation organizations.
This technology will improve quality of many crops by ensuring better seed that is free from weeds or other contamination and the technology will help deliver safer foods by reducing fungal
contaminated products. Currently, the EWERU is working on adding near infrared capabilities to the sorting system to improve separation of fungal infected seeds as well as enabling separations based on wheat hardness and protein content.
For more information contact: Dr. Tom Pearson, (785) 776-2729, Thomas.Pearson@ars.usda.gov.