Olive Fruit Fly Damage Pinpointed by X-ray
Vision By Marcia
Wood February 26, 2009
No one loves plump, ripening olives more than the olive fruit fly. The
female fly lays tiny eggs inside the fruit. The maggots that emerge from those
eggs live and feed beneath the olive's skin.
When they come out of the fruit, the maggots leave a tiny exit hole in
their wake. That damage, as well as the unseen havoc that they wreak inside the
olive, might someday be automatically detected by a sophisticated sorting
machine. That's according to agricultural engineers
P. Haff and
S. Jackson with the Agricultural
Research Service (ARS)
Regional Research Center in Albany, Calif.
The device's X-ray technology would quickly capture images of the
freshly harvested olives as they tumble along a conveyer belt. Then, a software
program would enable a computer to scan the X-ray imagery and recognize
internal damage. The computer would activate a sorter that would follow the
computer's commands, correctly separating undamaged olives from their ruined
All this would improve the speed, precision, and accuracy with which
olive fly damage is today detected at processing plants. Right now, that chore
is mainly done by hand.
In preliminary experiments, the scientists have found that the
software program they're developing is able to recognize undamaged olives 90
percent of the time and severely damaged olives 86 percent of the time. The
scores demonstrate that the approach is valid--and that it needs more work,
according to Jackson. He expects to have the system ready for real-world
testing in a processing plant within a year or so.
Jackson and Haff are likely the first to study this promising use of
real-time digital X-ray imagery.
The research was funded by ARS and the grower-sponsored
California Olive Committee. ARS is the
principal intramural scientific research agency of the
U.S. Department of Agriculture.
about this and related olive fly research in the February 2009 issue of
Agricultural Research magazine.