Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
  Energy News  

Subscribe to our free daily newsletters

De-mystifying the study of volatile organic plant compounds
by Staff Writers
Washington DC (SPX) Jan 14, 2016

This image shows the impact of abiotic and biotic factors on plant VOC emission. The factors in red are affected by any plant enclosure. Image courtesy Materi, D., D. Bruhn, C. Turner, G. Morgan, N. Mason, and V. Gauci. 2015. Methods in plant foliar volatile organic compounds research. Applications in Plant Sciences 3(12): 1500044. doi:10.3732/apps.1500044. For a larger version of this image please go here.

Similar to human pheromones, all plants emit signaling chemicals. The chemicals, called volatile organic compounds (VOCs), are ubiquitous. The smell of freshly cut grass is caused by a VOC. Ever wonder why Christmas trees easily catch fire? Conifer trees emit a flammable group of VOCs called terpenes.

VOCs protect plants from stress, attract insects for pollination and seed dispersal, and even send warning signs to neighbor plants and animals that predators are attacking. VOCs essentially mediate relationships between plants and the organisms with which they interact.

"VOCs also affect our climate globally," says lead author of a new review of VOCs, Dusan Materic. "Most VOCs emitted in the atmosphere are actually emitted from plants, predominantly from leaf surfaces."

Some plant VOC emissions, like isoprene, contribute approximately 600 million tons of carbon into the atmosphere every year, which is more than the amount of carbon emitted by all sources of methane combined.

Because the global significance of VOCs crosses several borders of disciplinary science - environmental, physical, biological, chemical, mathematical - the research requires collaborations across STEM fields.

Despite this, biological research on foliar VOCs (VOCs emitted from leaf surfaces) is rare. Thanks to a new review by Materic, Vincent Gauci, and researchers from The Open University in England, biologists and environmental scientists have resources to study these essential, yet elusive, foliar compounds.

The review is published in a recent issue of Applications in Plant Sciences and is geared toward plant scientists with no background in the physical or analytical methods necessary to navigate the science of VOCs.

"We hope that this work will help scientists who would like to move into the field of plant foliar VOCs research to get a comprehensive overview of available sampling methods and measurement techniques as well as their cost," says Materic.

Foliar VOCs are difficult to measure and highly unstable. Volatile organic compounds have low boiling points, resulting in molecules that easily evaporate into the air. VOCs react quickly with other chemicals and with surfaces of instruments used to measure them.

To sample VOCs at high precision, a chamber is placed around a plant leaf or branch. But measuring VOCs from a single leaf is difficult. Most leaves emit trace amounts of VOCs and create a slew of technical and analytical challenges for scientists.

Plant chambers can change many of the factors that trigger the release of VOCs, like temperature, light, and moisture (see Image), causing a false reading of natural VOC emissions.

The review explains the trade-offs in available VOC measurement techniques, allowing scientists to easily pair robust methods with scientific questions. Using schematics and straightforward instructions, Materic and colleagues break down the pros and cons of two complex techniques - gas chromatography and chemical ionization mass spectrometry.

Although both techniques can separate and measure different types of VOCs, gas chromatography allows scientists to store samples long-term and still end up with highly accurate readings. Chemical ionization mass spectrometry (using hydronium ions [H3O+]), on the other hand, measures VOCs in real time.

For example, mass spectrometry can measure in which seasons entire pine forests emit the most terpenes into the atmosphere. However, certain types of VOCs can't be measured or distinguished simultaneously using mass spectrometry, which can be necessary to understand the ecological and physiological functions of VOCs for plants.

Expected advances in the field will include techniques to capture low concentrations of VOCs with high-resolution time data. For example, simultaneous changes in the amount of VOCs that a plant secretes can determine how quickly it responds to insect attacks or heals a recent wound.

Dusan Materic, Dan Bruhn, Claire Turner, Geraint Morgan, Nigel Mason, and Vincent Gauci. 2015. Methods in plant foliar volatile organic compounds research. Applications in Plant Sciences 3(12): 1500044. doi:10.3732/apps.1500044.

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly

paypal only


Related Links
Botanical Society of America
Farming Today - Suppliers and Technology

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Previous Report
One crop, two ways, multiple benefits
Washington DC (SPX) Jan 08, 2016
Nitrogen fixation is one of the best examples of cooperation in nature. Soil microbes - naturally occurring bacteria in the soil - work with plants to pull nitrogen from the air. They turn the nitrogen into a form the plant is able to use. In return, the plant lets the microbes eat some of the sugars it makes. Faba beans (also called fava beans) are one example of plants that work with soi ... read more

NOAA's GOES-S, T and U Satellites Are Shaping Up

NASA image: Haze hovers over Indo-Gangetic Plain

ASA Awards Letter Contract for Landsat 9 Imager-2

NASA analyzes Paraguay's heavy rainfall

Europe's first decade of navigation satellites

Indra will deploy navigation aid systems in 20 Chinese airports

China builds ground service center for satnav system

Galileo's dozen: 12 satellites now in orbit

NUS study shows the causes of mangrove deforestation in Southeast Asia

The Amazon's future

Tens of millions of trees in danger from California drought

Modeling Amazonian transitional forest micrometeorology

Second-generation biofuels can reduce emissions

NREL's Min Zhang keeps her 'hugs' happy, leading to biofuel breakthroughs

IU scientists create 'nano-reactor' for the production of hydrogen biofuel

EU probes UK aid to convert huge coal power plant to biomass

Pedal, solar power aims to be the new hybrid

SolarEdge's StorEdge Solution is Now Internationally Available

China Pushed Global Renewable Installed Capacity Beyond 900 Gigawatts in 2015

Green campaigners back Italian giant's tilt to renewable energy

Scotland sees local benefits from renewables

Dutch vote 'setback' to green energy plan: Greenpeace

South Australian Government renews energy for change

Approval of South Australian Wind Farm

U.S. coal getting squeezed

11 killed in China coal mine collapse: reports

Eight survivors found after Chinese mine cave-in

Chinese mine collapse leads to owner's suicide: state media

Mao Ze-gone as giant statue of Communist leader 'demolished'

China detains Swedish human rights worker: group

Hong Kong protesters call for release of missing booksellers

Six months after China crackdown lawyers strike back

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement