Terpenes are phytochemicals found in multiple plant genera, especially aromatic herbs and conifers. Terpene content quantification is costly and complex, requiring the extraction of oil content and gas chromatography analyses. Near infrared (NIR) spectroscopy could provide an alternative quantitative method, especially if calibration can be developed with the spectra of dried plant material, which are easier and faster to acquire than oil-based spectra. Here, multispecies NIR spectroscopy calibrations were developed for total terpene content (mono- and sesquiterpenes) and for specific terpenes (α-pinene, β-pinene and myrcene) with five conifers species (Picea glauca, Picea rubens, Pinus resinosa, Pinus strobus and Thuja occidentalis). The terpene content of fresh shoot samples was quantified with gas chromatography. The NIR spectra were measured on freeze-dried samples (n = 137). Using a subset of the samples, modified partial least squares regressions of total terpene and the three individual terpenes content were generated as a functions of the NIR spectra. The standard errors of the internal cross-validations (values between 0.25 and 2.28) and the ratio of prediction to deviation ratios (RPD values between 2.20 and 2.38) indicate that all calibrations have similar accuracy. The independent validations, however, suggest that the calibrations for total terpene and α-pinene content are more accurate (respective coefficient of determination: r2 = 0.85 and 0.82). In contrast, calibrations for β-pinene and myrcene had a low accuracy (respectively: r2 = 0.62 and 0.08), potentially because of the low concentration of these terpenes in the species studied. The calibration model fits (i.e., r2) are comparable to previously published calibration using the spectra of dried shoot samples and demonstrate the potential of this method for terpenes in conifer samples. The calibration method used could be useful in several other domains (e.g. seedling breeding program, industrial), because of the wide distribution of terpenes and especially of pinenes.
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