Development and validation of standard area diagrams to aid assessment of pecan scab symptoms on fruit




Pecan scab (Fusicladium effusum) causes losses of pecan nutmeat yield and quality in the southeastern United States. Disease assessment relies on visual rating, which can be inaccurate and imprecise, with poor inter-rater reliability. A standard area diagram (SAD) set for pecan scab on fruit valves was developed. A set of 40 images of diseased fruit valves with known severity was assessed twice by 23 raters. The first assessment was conducted without SADs, and the second assessment was made using the SADs as an aid. SADs improved rater accuracy (correction factor, Cb = 0·86 and 0·97, without and with SADs, respectively) and agreement (Lin’s concordance correlation coefficient, ρc = 0·79 and 0·89 without and with SADs, respectively) with true values. SADs improved inter-rater reliability (intra-class correlation coefficient, ρ = 0·77 and 0·96 without and with SADs, respectively). The least accurate and precise raters without SADs improved more using SADs compared to the most accurate and precise raters. Experienced raters had significantly higher accuracy and precision compared to inexperienced raters, but only when unaided by the SAD set. There was no significant difference in time to assess images without SADs, but experienced raters using SADs were faster compared to inexperienced raters. There was a slight tendency for faster raters to assess more slowly, and slower raters to assess faster when using SADs. SADs improve rater estimates of pecan scab severity on fruit, and this SAD set should be useful for assessment where greater precision, accuracy and inter-rater reliability are required.