Paw San rice, also known as “Myanmar pearl rice”, is considered the highest quality rice in Myanmar. Methods for its authentication are one of the worldwide research priorities for specific regional foods identified by the Joint FAO/IAEA Centre for Nuclear Techniques and these new methods (here – free link for 50 days) is one of the outputs of that programme.

Shwe Bo District is one of the most popular rice growing areas in the Sagaing region of Myanmar which produces the most valued and highly priced Paw San rice (Shwe Bo Paw San). The verification of the geographical origin of Paw San rice is not readily undertaken in the rice supply chain because the existing analytical approaches are time-consuming and expensive.

In this 4-year study, two rapid screening techniques, Fourier-transform near-infrared (FT-NIR) spectroscopy and headspace-gas chromatography-ion mobility spectrometry (HS-GC-IMS), coupled with chemometric modelling, were applied and compared for the regional differentiation of Paw San rice. In addition, low-level fusion of the FT-NIR and HS-GC-IMS data was performed and its effect on the discriminative power of the chemometric models was assessed. Extensive model validation, including the validation using independent samples from a different production year, was performed. Furthermore, the effect of the sample preparation technique (grinding versus no sample preparation) on the performance of the discriminative model, obtained with FT-NIR spectral data, was assessed. The study discusses the suitability of FT-NIR spectroscopy, HS-GC-IMS and the combination of both approaches for rapid determination of the geographical origin of Paw San rice.

The results demonstrated the excellent potential of the FT-NIR spectroscopy as well as HS-GC-IMS for the differentiation of Paw San rice cultivated in two distinct geographical regions. The OPLS-DA model, built using FT-NIR data of rice from 3 production years, achieved 96.67% total correct classification rate of an independent dataset from the 4th production year. The DD-SIMCA model, built using FT-NIR data of ground rice, also demonstrated the highest performance: 94% sensitivity and 97% specificity. This study has demonstrated that FT-NIR spectroscopy can be used as an accessible, rapid and cost-effective screening tool to discriminate between Paw San rice cultivated in the Shwe Bo and Ayeyarwady regions of Myanmar.

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