An electronic nose (E-nose) system equipped with a sensitive sensor array was developed for fast diagnosis of aphid infestation on greenhouse tomato plants at early stages. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted by tomato plants with and without aphid attacks were detected using both the developed E-nose system and gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC-MS), respectively. Sensor performance, with fast sensor responses and high sensitivity, were observed using the E-nose system. A principle component analysis (PCA) indicated accurate diagnosis of aphid-stressed plants compared to healthy ones, with the first two PCs accounting for 86.7% of the classification. The changes in VOCs profiles of the healthy and infested tomato plants were quantitatively determined by GC-MS. Results indicated that a group of new VOCs biomarkers (linalool, carveol, and nonane (2,2,4,4,6,8,8-heptamethyl-)) played a role in providing information on the infestation on the tomato plants. More importantly, the variation in the concentration of sesquiterpene VOCs (e.g., caryophyllene) and new terpene alcohol compounds was closely associated with the sensor responses during E-nose testing, which verified the reliability and accuracy of the developed E-nose system. Tomato plants growing in spring had similar VOCs profiles as those of winter plants, except several terpenes released from spring plants that had a slightly higher intensity.
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