Posted on December 8, 2017
When you own an orange grove, your money actually does grow on trees. If you’re lucky enough to be in the orange business, this means it’s very important to know the best ways to keep your trees producing the highest quality oranges possible. What is the ideal soil mix? Which minerals and nutrients should be fed to the trees roots, and in which proportions? At which temperature and humidity levels is it necessary to test for infestations? There are many variables that must be measured and weighed against each other, all for the purpose of knowing the answer to a simple question: what makes my oranges grow the best? By using a spectrophotometer to assess the color of oranges and studying the factors that contributed to the development of their color, it’s possible to obtain an answer.
Color Affects Taste Perception in Orange Juice
Before we explore how spectrophotometers can help you determine your ideal growing processes, it’s important to define what is meant by the best. In the case of juicing oranges, quality is often perceived through color. This is because color is a primary indicator of customer preference and can even alter perceptions of taste. As discovered in a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, while brand and price information had no effect on consumer taste perception, the effect of color was significant.1 In fact, the effect of color even stronger than the effect of taste. According to the study:
Given two cups of the same Tropicana orange juice, with one cup darkened with food coloring, the members of the researcher’s sample group perceived differences in taste that did not exist. However, when given two cups of orange juice that were the same color, with one cup sweetened with sugar, the same people failed to perceive taste differences.
From this, we can assume that orange groves which produce the most desirably colored oranges will be the most successful if other factors are equal.
Refining Agricultural Practices
The orange color in oranges and their juice is produced by organic pigments the orange creates called carotenoids.2 These are the same pigments found in carrots and butternut squash. Different environmental factors affect the production of carotenoids in oranges in different and intermingling ways. By measuring the color of oranges produced in different areas within the same grove—or different groves across the state, nation, or world—and correlating the color profiles with environmental variables like humidity, moisture, and soil quality, orange farmers can develop a better picture of which conditions make the best oranges. They can then apply these findings to their agricultural practices to improve their crops.
Full article with photos available here: