An automated near-infrared system for selecting individual kernels based on specific quality characteristics
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An automated sorting system was developed that nondestructively measured quality characteristics of individual kernels using near-infrared (NIR) spectra. This single-kernel NIR system was applied to sorting wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) kernels by protein content and hardness, and proso millet (Panicum miliaceum L.) into amylose-bearing and amylose-free fractions. Single wheat kernels with high protein content could be sorted from pure lines so that the high-protein content portion was 3.1 percentage points higher than the portion with the low-protein kernels. Likewise, single wheat kernels with specific hardness indices could be removed from pure lines such that the hardness index in the sorted samples was 29.4 hardness units higher than the soft kernels. The system was able to increase the waxy, or amylose-free, millet kernels in segregating samples from 94% in the unsorted samples to 98% in the sorted samples. The portion of waxy millet kernels in segregating samples was increased from 32% in the unsorted samples to 55% after sorting. Thus, this technology can be used to enrich the desirable class within segregating populations in breeding programs, to increase the purity of heterogeneous advanced or released lines, or to measure the distribution of quality within samples during the marketing process.