Development and validation of a SPME-GC-MS method for in situ passive sampling of root volatiles from glasshouse-grown broccoli plants undergoing below-ground herbivory by larvae of cabbage root fly, Delia radicum L

W Deasy, T Shepherd, CJ Alexander, ANE Birch, KA Evans

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Introduction – Research on plant root chemical ecology has benefited greatly from recent developments in analytical chemistry. Numerous reports document techniques for sampling root volatiles, although only a limited number describe in situ collection. Objectives – To demonstrate a new method for non-invasive in situ passive sampling using solid phase micro extraction (SPME), from the immediate vicinity of growing roots. Methods – SPME fibres inserted into polyfluorotetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) sampling tubes located in situ which were either perforated, covered with stainless steelmesh or with microporous PTFE tubing, were used for non-invasive sub-surface sampling of root volatiles from glasshouse-grown broccoli. Sampling methods were compared with above surface headspace collection using Tenax TA. The roots were eithermechanically damaged or infested with Delia radicumlarvae. Principal component analysis (PCA) was used to investigate the effect of damage on the composition of volatiles released by broccoli roots. Results – Analyses by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) with SPME and automated thermal desorption (ATD) confirmed that sulphur compounds, showing characteristic temporal emission patterns, were the principal volatiles released by roots following insect larval damage. Use of SPME with in situ perforated PTFE sampling tubes was the most robust method for out-of-lab sampling. Conclusion – This study describes a new method for non-invasive passive sampling of volatiles in situ from intact and insect damaged roots using SPME. Themethod is highly suitable for remote sampling and has potential for wide application in chemical ecology/root/soil research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)376 - 393
Number of pages18
JournalPhytochemical Analysis
Issue number6
Early online date30 Sep 2016
Publication statusFirst published - 30 Sep 2016


Bibliographical note



  • Brassica
  • Chemical ecology
  • Delia radicum
  • In situ root volatiles analysis

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