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Soil Science Society of America Journal Abstract - DIVISION S-3—SOIL BIOLOGY & BIOCHEMISTRY

Identification of Phenolic Acid Composition of Alkali-extracted Plants and Soils


This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 66 No. 4, p. 1240-1248
    Received: Sept 13, 2000

    * Corresponding author(s): dmartens@tucson.ars.ag.gov
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  1. Dean A. Martens *
  1. USDA-ARS Southwest Watershed Research Center, 2000 E. Allen Rd., Tucson, AZ 85718


Phenolic acids (PAs) released from plant residues have been implicated as important components in a variety of soil processes. To evaluate the role of plant PAs in soil processes, a quantitative alkaline extraction, solid-phase purification, and gas chromatographic protocol was developed for identification of the composition and concentration of plant and soil PAs. Water-soluble or EDTA-exchangeable PAs were not detected in soil. Alkaline hydrolysis (1 M NaOH) at ambient temperatures was required to extract ester-linked phenolics and alkaline hydrolysis (4 M NaOH) with heat extracted ether-linked PAs present in plant and soil material. Purification of NaOH-extracted PAs by polymeric solid-phase extraction with gas chromatographic flame ionization and mass spectral analysis of nonderivatized extracts resulted in a highly reproducible and accurate method for the saponifiable PAs. The method quantified plant and soil PAs as ethanone (acetylbenzene), benzaldehyde, and benzoic- and cinnamic-acid derivatives. The majority of soil PAs was identified as modified cinnamic acids originating from vascular plant tissue. Comparison of the described method with a standard acid digestion (12 M H2SO4) and gravimetric determination of lignin in plant residues found that interferences formed by strong acid digestion of plant residues such as soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr.] or clover (Trifolium pratense L.) containing higher carbohydrate and protein contents resulted in an overestimation of plant lignin content when measured by the acid digestion-gravimetric method. Since the majority of soil PAs originate from vascular plants and are not microbial in origin, the composition of ester-linked PAs in soils may be an important indicator of the quantity of plant residue C present in soils under different management systems.

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Copyright © 2002. Soil Science SocietyPublished in Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J.66:1240–1248.