The sorption of organic compounds by plant cuticular matter has been extensively investigated; however, little has been studied regarding the effect of plant cuticle degradation on their role in the sorption of organic compounds in soils. The sorption of phenanthrene was studied in soil samples which had been incubated for up to 9 months with three different types of plant cuticle isolated from tomato fruits, pepper fruits and citrus leaves. The main change in the diffuse reflectance Fourier-transform infrared (DRIFT) spectra during incubation of the cuticles was related to cutin decomposition. The peaks assigned to methyl and ethyl vibration and C=O vibration in ester links decreased with decomposition. In general, with all samples, the phenanthrene sorption coefficients calculated for the whole incubated soils (K d) decreased with incubation time. In contrast, the carbon-normalized K d values (K oc) did not exhibit a similar trend for the different cuticles during incubation. The origin of the cuticle also affected the linearity of the sorption isotherms. With the tomato and citrus cuticle samples, the Freundlich N values were close to unity and were stable throughout incubation. However with the green pepper cuticle, the N values exhibited a significant decrease (from 0.98 to 0.70). This study demonstrates that the structural composition of the plant cuticle affects its biodegradability and therefore its ability to sorb organic compounds in soils. Of the residues originating from plant cuticular matter in soils, the cutan biopolymer and lignin-derived structures appear to play a dominant role in sorption as decomposition progresses.
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Acknowledgements This research was supported by a research grant from BARD, the United States-Israeli Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund. The author wishes to thank Ziva Hochman for her assistance in this study.
- Plant cuticle