Sorption-desorption of phenolic acids as affected by soil properties

Amy M. Cecchi, William C. Koskinen, H H Cheng, Konrad Haider

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Phenolic acids have been implicated in the process of allelopathy and are, therefore, of interest in plant management as a basis for new herbicide structures. The potential bioavailability of phenolic acids is controlled by sorption-desorption processes in soil. Sorption-desorption of p-coumaric acid (4-hydroxycinnamic acid), ferulic acid (3-methoxy-4-hydroxycinnamic acid), veratric acid (3,4-dimethoxybenzoic acid), vanillic acid (3-methoxy-4- hydroxybenzoic acid), and p-hydroxybenzoic acid (4-hydroxybenzoic acid) was characterized on soils with varying physicochemical properties. The phenolic acids sorbed quickly (<8 h) and in high proportions to the amount applied (average 84% of applied was sorbed). Sorption was irreversible with the batch desorption method used (0.01 N CaCl2 extraction). Pretreatment of soils to remove organic matter and free metal oxides from the soils decreased sorption, particularly in soils with free oxides removed. Statistical analysis suggested that sorption of p-coumaric and ferulic acids was correlated with soil clay content and veratric acid sorption was correlated with several soil factors. In contrast, no consistent relationship between soil characteristics and vanillic and p-hydroxybenzoic acid sorption was found. Based on the results of these experiments, i.e. the high reactivity of the phenolic acids, it is unlikely that these chemicals would be transported far from their point of origin, limiting their range of influence. It appears that, for phenolic acids to have allelopathic effects on plants, they would have to persist in the soil for long periods, resulting in a buildup of the chemical to high enough levels so that sufficient chemical would be in solution to cause the allelopathic effects, even though they may be strongly sorbed at lower concentrations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)235-242
Number of pages8
JournalBiology and Fertility of Soils
Issue number4
StatePublished - Mar 2004


  • Desorption
  • Hysteresis
  • Phenolic acids
  • Sorption


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