Field-based evaluation of a novel SPME-GC-MS method for investigation of below-ground interaction between brassica roots and larvae of cabbage root fly, Delia radicum L

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

*Corresponding author for this work

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Introduction – Collection of volatiles from plant roots poses technical challenges due to difficulties accessing the soil environment without damaging the roots. Objectives – To validate a new non-invasive method for passive sampling of root volatiles in situ, from plants grown under field conditions, using solid phase micro-extraction (SPME). Methods – SPME fibres were inserted into perforated polytetrafluoroethene (PTFE) tubes positioned in the soil next to broccoli plants for collection of root volatiles pre- and post-infestation with Delia radicum larvae. After sample analysis by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS), principal component analysis (PCA) was applied to determine differences in the profiles of volatiles between samples. Results – GC-MS analysis revealed that this method can detect temporal changes in root volatiles emitted before and after Delia radicumdamage. PCA showed that samples collected pre- and post-infestationwere compositionally different due to the presence of root volatiles induced by D. radicum feeding. Sulphur containing compounds, in particular, accounted for the differences observed. Root volatiles emission patterns post-infestation are thought to follow the feeding and developmental progress of larvae. Conclusion – This study shows that volatiles released by broccoli roots can be collected in situ using SPME fibres within perforated PTFE tubes under field conditions. Plants damaged by Delia radicum larvae could be distinguished from plants sampled preinfestation and soil controls on the basis of larval feeding-induced sulphur-containing volatiles. These results show that this newmethod is a powerful tool for non-invasive sampling of root volatiles below-ground.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)343 - 353
Number of pages11
JournalPhytochemical Analysis
Issue number6
Early online date30 Sep 2016
Publication statusFirst published - 30 Sep 2016


Bibliographical note



  • Brassica
  • Delia radicum
  • Field and soil
  • In situ root volatiles analysis

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