Due to their heterogeneous structure and variability in form, individual corn (<i>Zea mays</i> L.) kernels present an optical challenge for nondestructive spectroscopic determination of their chemical composition. Increasing demand in agricultural science for knowledge of specific traits in kernels is driving the need to find high-throughput methods of examination. In this study macroscopic near-infrared (NIR) reflectance hyperspectral imaging was used to measure small sets of kernels in the spectroscopic range of 950 nm to 1700 nm. Image analysis and principal component analysis (PCA) were used to determine kernel germ from endosperm regions as well as to define individual kernels as objects out of sets of kernels. Partial least squares (PLS) analysis was used to predict oil or oleic acid concentrations derived from germ or full kernel spectra. The relative precision of the minimum cross-validated root mean square error (RMSECV) and root mean square error of prediction (RMSEP) for oil and oleic acid concentration were compared for two sets of two hundred kernels. An optimal statistical prediction method was determined using a limited set of wavelengths selected by a genetic algorithm. Given these parameters, oil content was predicted with an RMSEP of 0.7% and oleic acid content with an RMSEP of 14% for a given corn kernel.

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