Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 10, Issue 8, pp 1169–1191 | Cite as

Effects of ferulic acid and some of its microbial metabolic products on radicle growth of cucumber

  • Udo Blum
  • Barry R. Dalton
  • John O. Rawlings


An initial survey of the effects of aqueous solutions of ferulic acid and three of its microbial metabolic products at pH 4.5, 6.0, and 7.5 was determined on radicle growth of 11 crop species in Petri dishes. These bioassays indicated that cucumber, ladino clover, lettuce, mung bean, and wheat were inhibited by ferulic, caffeic, protocatechuic, and/or vanillic acids and that the magnitude of inhibition varied with concentration (0–2 mM), phenolic acid, and pH of the initial solution. The pH values of the initial solutions changed considerably when added to the Petri dishes containing filter paper and seeds. The final pH values after 48 hr were 6.6, 6.8, and 7.1, respectively, for the initial 4.5, 6.0, and 7.5 pH solutions. The amounts of the phenolic acids in the Petri dishes declined rapidly over the 48 hr of the bioassay, and the rate of phenolic acid decline was species specific. Cucumber was subsequently chosen as the bioassay species for further study. MES buffer was used to stabilize the pH of the phenolic acid solutions which ranged between 5.5 and 5.8 for all subsequent studies. Inhibition of radicle growth declined in a curvilinear manner over the 0–2 mM concentration range. At 0.125 and 0.25 mM concentrations of ferulic acid, radicle growth of cucumber was inhibited 7 and 14%, respectively. A variety of microbial metabolic products of ferulic acid was identified in the Petri dishes and tested for toxicity. Only vanillic acid was as inhibitory as ferulic acid. The remaining phenolic acids were less inhibitory to noninhibitory. When mixtures of phenolic acids were tested, individual components were antagonistic to each other in the inhibition of cucumber radicle growth. Depending on the initial total concentration of the mixture, effects ranged from 5 to 35% lower than the sum of the inhibition of each phenolic acid tested separately. Implications of these findings to germination bioassays are discussed.

Key words

Ferulic acid vanillic acid caffeic acid cucumber radicle growth antagonism germination bioassays allelopathy phytotoxicity 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bates-Smith, E.C. 1956. The commoner phenolic constituents of plants and their systematic distribution.Proc. R. Dublin Sci. Soc. 27165–176.Google Scholar
  2. Dagley, S. 1971. Catabolism of aromatic compounds by micro-organisms, pp. 1– Advances in the Microbial Physiology, Vol. 6. A.H. Rose and J.F. Wilkinson (eds.) Academic Press, London.Google Scholar
  3. del Moral, R., andMuller, C.H. 1970. The allelopathic effects ofEucalyptus camaldulensis.Am. Midl Nat. 83:254–282.Google Scholar
  4. Evans, W.C. 1963. The microbial degradation of aromatic compounds.J. Gen. Microbiol. 32:177–185.Google Scholar
  5. Flaig, W. 1964. Effects of micro-organisms in the transformation of lignin to humic substances.Geochem. Cosmochim. Acta 28:1523–1533.Google Scholar
  6. Good, N.E., Winget, G.D., Winter, W., Connolly, T.N., Izawa, S., andSingh, R.M.M. 1966. Hydrogen ion buffers for biological research.Biochemistry 5:467–477.Google Scholar
  7. Guenzi, W.D., andMcCalla, T.M. 1966. Phytotoxic substances extracted from soil.Soil Sci. Am., Proc. 30:214–216.Google Scholar
  8. Helwig, J.T., andCouncil, K.A. (eds.). 1979. SAS Users Guide. SAS Institute Inc., Cary, North Carolina.Google Scholar
  9. Leben, C. 1961. Microorganisms on cucumber seedlings.Phytopathology 51:553–557.Google Scholar
  10. Liebel, R.A., andWorsham, A.D. 1983. Inhibition of pitted morning glory (Ipomea lacunosa L.) and certain other weed species by phytotoxic components of wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) straw.J. Chem. Ecol. 9:1027–1043.Google Scholar
  11. Lodhi, M.A.K. 1975. Soil-plant phytotoxicity and its possible significance in a bottomland forest.Am. J. Bot. 62:618–622.Google Scholar
  12. Martin, J.P., andHaider, K. 1976. Decomposition of specifically carbon-14-labeled ferulic acid: Free and linked into model humic acid-type polymers.Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 40:377–380.Google Scholar
  13. Mundt, J.O., andHinkle, N.F. 1976. Bacteria within ovules and seeds.Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 32:694–697.Google Scholar
  14. McPherson, J.K. 1971. Allelopathic constituents of chaparral shrubAdenostoma fasciculatum.Phytochemistry 10:2925–2933.Google Scholar
  15. Rasmussen, J.A., andEinhellig, F.A., 1977. Synergistic inhibitory effects ofp-coumaric and ferulic acids on germination and growth of grain sorghum.J. Chem. Ecol. 3:197–205.Google Scholar
  16. Rice, E.L. 1974. Allelopathy. Academic Press, New York.Google Scholar
  17. Rice, E.L. 1979. Allelopathy-An update.Bot. Rev. 45:15–109.Google Scholar
  18. Turner, J.A., andRice, E.L. 1975. Microbial decomposition of ferulic acid in soil.J. Chem. Ecol. 1:41–58.Google Scholar
  19. Wang, T.S.C., Yang, T., andChuang, T. 1967. Soil phenolic acids as plant growth inhibitors.Soil Sci. 103:239–246.Google Scholar
  20. Whitehead, D.C. 1964. Identification ofp-hydroxybenzoic, vanillic,p-coumaric, and ferulic acid in soils.Nature 202:417–418.Google Scholar
  21. Whitehead, D.C., Dibb, H.,andHartley, R.D. 1981. Extractant pH and the release of phenolic compounds from soils, plant roots and leaf litter.Soil Biol. Biochem. 13:343–348.Google Scholar
  22. Whitehead, D.C., Dibb, H.., andHartley, R.D. 1982. Phenolic compounds in soil as influenced by the growth of different plant species.J. Appl. Ecol. 19:579–588.Google Scholar
  23. Whittaker, R.H., andFeeny, P.P. 1971. Allelochemics: Chemical interactions between species.Science 171:757–770.Google Scholar
  24. Williams, R.D., andHoagland, R.E. 1982. The effects of naturally occurring phenolic compounds on seed germination.Weed Sci. 30:206–212.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Udo Blum
    • 1
  • Barry R. Dalton
    • 1
  • John O. Rawlings
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of BotanyNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleigh
  2. 2.Department of StatisticsNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleigh

Personalised recommendations