Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Chemical Approaches to Eliminate Fungal Contamination and Mycotoxin Production in Plant Products

Location: Foodborne Toxin Detection and Prevention

Title: Addressing the complexity and diversity of agricultural plant volatiles: a call for the integration of laboratory- and field-based analyses

Author
item Beck, John

Submitted to: Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry
Publication Type: Review Article
Publication Acceptance Date: January 13, 2012
Publication Date: January 13, 2012
Repository URL: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdf/10.1021/jf2047916
Citation: Beck, J.J. 2012. Addressing the complexity and diversity of agricultural plant volatiles: a call for the integration of laboratory- and field-based analyses. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 60(5):1153-1157.

Interpretive Summary: As the level of sophistication and sensitivity of chemical instrumentation increases so do the number of applications and systems scientists can evaluate. Correspondingly and consequently, new opportunities, perspectives, and questions for systems previously studied also arise. The chemical analyses of agricultural products will always remain a priority in order to ensure the safety of food as it works it way from the field to the consumer. The constant inundation of challenges agricultural commodities face does not seem to be reduced or removed. These challenges range from normal stressors such as drought or heat waves to more complex insect pest and/or fungal/bacterial infestations. The emission of odors (volatiles) from agricultural products is also highly complex and varies among each commodity. Because these odors are indicative of characteristics such as food quality, variety identification, development stage, or microbial contamination levels the systematic and accurate evaluation of these odors in the role as chemical cues is important. Early chemical/volatile analyses were typified by the removal of the analyte in question, transport to the laboratory, and subsequent investigation. More recently, scientists are moving the laboratory to the field in order to obtain more realistic emission patterns of the analyte in its natural environment. This perspective suggests that a methodical analytical approach to the complex relationship between volatiles and agricultural commodities and their various developmental stages, degradation products, and fungal contamination is needed in order to fully comprehend the system as a whole. These methodical approaches should incorporate both the in situ (field) and ex situ (laboratory) investigation of the analytes, which could be viewed as the top-down and bottom-up approaches. Ultimately, there exists a unique opportunity for development of methodology that integrates both laboratory-based and field-based collection of volatiles to explore the complex interactions of agricultural-based odors.

Technical Abstract: As the sophistication and sensitivity of chemical instrumentation increases so do the number of applications. Correspondingly, new questions and opportunities for systems previously studied also arise. As with most plants, the emission of volatiles from agricultural products is complex and varies among commodities. Volatiles are indicative of characteristics such as food quality, cultivar type, phenological stage, and biotic and abiotic stressors; thus, their systematic and accurate evaluation is important. Early volatile analyses entailed removal of the sample matrix in question, transport to the laboratory, and subsequent investigation. More recently, scientists are moving the laboratory to the field to obtain realistic emission patterns of the sample in its natural environment. This perspective proposes that a methodical and collaborative approach to the complex relationship between volatiles and agricultural commodities and their various phenological stages, oxidative degradation products, and fungal contamination is needed in order to fully comprehend the sample and associated relationships as a whole. These methodical approaches should incorporate both in situ and ex situ investigations of the sample. Ultimately, there exists an opportunity for development of methodologies that integrate both laboratory- and field-based collection of volatiles to explore and address the complex biological interactions of agricultural systems.

Last Modified: 11/25/2014
Footer Content Back to Top of Page