Aug. 10, 2020
Aug. 10, 2020
The primary focus in crop research has been prediction and management of fruit quality parameters. Moreover, the concept of fruit quality at maturity as a predictor of later post-storage quality is being increasingly exploited in breeding programs to develop varieties that can successfully meet consumer demands. Scientists are increasingly turning to portable visual NIR spectroscopies in such studies, instead of conventional techniques.
Dry matter (DM), total solids content (SSC), acidity, and firmness are quality parameters that are widely used for testing maturity, ripening, fruit grading and sorting, and warehouse logistics. It has been successfully used for cereals, proteins, fruits, and vegetables in open fields and greenhouses.
Dry matter is the total of all solids in a fruit minus its water content. It is recently gaining acceptance as a reliable and objective maturity and quality parameter.
Visual Near Infrared (NIR) spectroscopy, as its name indicates, is based on the use of the near infrared spectra of light. This spectrum is best suited for the qualitative analysis of organic compounds that plants and animals are made of. The absorbance, transmission, or reflectance of the wavelengths can help in identifying the compound, as well as the quantities in which they are present. These attributes of NIR spectroscopy are used in quality analysis.
Spectroscopy is a complex technique that was long restricted to massive and expensive equipment. It was, therefore, used only in laboratories of large organizations, and most researchers could not benefit from the precision that this technique offers.
However, recent developments have miniaturized the technology, and NIR spectroscopy is now available in small, handheld, portable devices that can be carried to fields and orchards and are easy on the pocket too. Though farmers and growers are the target market for this device, the scientific community has been regularly using portable NIR spectroscopy in research since the inception of the technology.
There are many reasons for using portable NIR spectrometers in research, although these reasons may not be easy to see. We will trace the progression of this technology by considering the case of the F-750, as an example.
The F-750 Produce Quality Meter was designed by the US-based firm Felix Instruments Applied Food Science, in partnership with the Central Queensland University of Australia. Within a decade, this device was being used globally by growers and researchers alike.
Researchers at most of the largest fruit and vegetable breeding companies have used the F-750 Produce Quality Meter for tomato, pepper, strawberry, peach, mango, apple, and kiwi breeding applications, among others.
F-750 has been most commonly used for measuring dry matter, water content, soluble solids/Brix, acid/sugar ratio, pH, and internal color. Though any trait that affects the VIS/NIR light path will work, including proprietary scales such as user preference.
The following are the primary benefits that the F-750 Quality Meters offer breeders:
The F-750 has proven to be so reliable that it is regularly used in many private breeding companies. For example, Hazera, a global seed producer managed by a French farmers’ cooperative and a part of the international company Limagrain, was one of the first users of the F-750 Produce Quality Meter. Hazera has been using the product successfully for more than six years in their breeding programs.
Fig. 1. “ Spectra were collected at each of three temperatures (10 °C, 20 °C, and 30 °C) for each cherry (of 225 ‘Lapins’ sweet cherries); therefore, the figure represents 675 spectra overlaid over each other. The spectra were collected in the interactance mode using a Felix F750 spectrometer.” Toivonen et al., 2017, Image credits: Can. J. Plant Sci. 97: 1030–1035 (2017) dx.doi.org/10.1139/cjps-2017-0013
NIR spectroscopy based analyses are useful in a wide range of research topics, particularly in plant breeding programs:
A recent addition to the analytic toolbox for scientists, NIR spectroscopy based portable tools are already a mainstay in several research programs. The coming years will definitely see an expansion in their applications. NIR spectroscopy is useful not only for plant research, but also to study the quality and chemical composition of animal products like beef, pork, poultry, milk, and cheese. NIR spectroscopy is a powerful means of analysis that science is just beginning to exploit fully.
Science Writer, CID Bio-Science
Ph.D. Ecology and Environmental Science, B.Sc Agriculture
Toivonen, P., Batista, A., & Lannard, B. (2017). Development of a predictive model for ‘Lapins’ sweet cherry dry matter content using a visible/near infrared spectrometer and its potential application to other cultivars. Canadian Journal of Plant Science. doi: 10.1139/cjps-2017-0013
Chagné, D., Dayatilake, D., Diack, R., Oliver, M., Ireland, H., Watson, A., … Tustin, S. (2014). Genetic and environmental control of fruit maturation, dry matter and firmness in apple (Malus × domestica Borkh.). Horticulture Research, 1(1). doi: 10.1038/hortres.2014.46
Bed Khatiwada, B., Escribano, S., Biasi, B., Elkins, R., Slaughter, D., & Mitcham, B. (2016). Nondestructive Prediction of Quality for ‘Bartlett’ Pears. Retrieved from
NAPB Annual Meeting 2018 | Plant Agriculture. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.plant.uoguelph.ca/napb2018