Milling plant and soil material in plastic tubes over-estimates carbon and under-estimates nitrogen concentrations
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- Cite this article as:
- Smith, S.W., Robertson, A.H.J., Meharg, A.A. et al. Plant Soil (2013) 369: 509. doi:10.1007/s11104-013-1599-y
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Background and aims
Milling of plant and soil material in plastic tubes, such as microcentrifuge tubes, over-estimates carbon (C) and under-estimates nitrogen (N) concentrations due to the introduction of polypropylene into milled samples, as identified using Fourier-transform infra-red spectroscopy.
Methods and results
This study compares C and N concentrations of roots and soil milled in microcentrifuge tubes versus stainless steel containers, demonstrating that a longer milling time, greater milling intensity, smaller sample size and inclusion of abrasive sample material all increase polypropylene contamination from plastic tubes leading to overestimation of C concentrations by up to 8 % (0.08 g g−1).
Erroneous estimations of C and N, and other analytes, must be assumed after milling in plastic tubes and milling methods should be adapted to minimise such error.