Optical sensor data can be used to determine changes in anthocyanins, chlorophyll and soluble solids content (SSC) in apple production. In this study, visible and near-infrared spectra (729 to 975 nm) were transformed to SSC values by advanced multivariate calibration models i.e. partial least square regression (PLSR) in order to test the substitution of destructive chemical analyses through non-destructive optical measurements. Spectral field scans were carried out from 2016 to 2018 on marked ’Braeburn’ apples in Southwest Germany. The study combines an in-depth statistical analyses of longitudinal SSC values with horticultural knowledge to set guidelines for further applied use of SSC predictions in the orchard to gain insights into apple carbohydrate physiology. The PLSR models were investigated with respect to sample size, seasonal variation, laboratory errors and the explanatory power of PLSR models when applied to independent samples. As a result of Monte Carlo simulations, PLSR modelled SSC only depended to a minor extent on the absolute number and accuracy of the wet chemistry laboratory calibration measurements. The comparison between non-destructive SSC determinations in the orchard with standard destructive lab testing at harvest on an independent sample showed mean differences of 0.5 % SSC over all study years. SSC modelling with longitudinal linear mixed-effect (LME) models linked high crop loads to lower SSC values at harvest and higher SSC values for fruit from the top part of a tree.
Vis/NIR; repeated longitudinal measurements; apple maturation; precision horticulture
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