Autoclaved soil is commonly used for the study of xenobiotic sorption and as an abiotic control in biodegradation experiments. Autoclaving has been reported to alter soil physico-chemical and xenobiotic sorption characteristics such that comparison of autoclaved with non-autoclaved treatments in soil aging and bioavailability studies may yield misleading results. Experiments could be improved by using autoclaved soil re-inoculated with indigenous microorganisms as an additional or alternative non-sterile treatment for comparison with the sterile, autoclaved control. We examined the effect of autoclaving (3 x 1 h, 121°C, 103.5 KPa) on the physico-chemical properties of a silt loam soil (pH 7.2, 2.3% organic carbon) and the establishment of indigenous microorganisms reintroduced after autoclaving. Sterilisation by autoclaving significantly (p ≤ 0.05) decreased pH (0.6 of a unit) and increased concentrations of water-soluble organic carbon (WSOC; nontreated = 75 mg kg-1; autoclaved = 1526 mg kg-1). The initial first-order rate of 14C-2,4-dichloro-UL-phenol (2,4-DCP) adsorption to non-treated, autoclaved and re-inoculated soil was rapid (K1 = 16.8-24.4 h-1) followed by a slower linear phase (K2). In comparison with autoclaved soil (0.038% day-1), K2 values were higher for re-inoculated (0.095% day-1) and nontreated (0.181% day-1) soil. This was attributed to a biological process. The Freundlich adsorption coefficient (K(f)) for autoclaved soil was significantly (p ≤ 0.05) higher than for re-inoculated or non-treated soil. Increased adsorption was attributed to autoclaving-induced changes to soil pH and solution composition. Glucose-induced respiration of autoclaved soil after re-inoculation was initially twice that in the non-treated control, but it decreased to control levels by day 4. This reduction corresponded to a depletion of WSOC. 2,4-DCP mineralisation experiments revealed that the inoculum of nonsterile soil (0.5 g) contained 2,4-DCP-degrading microorganisms capable of survival in autoclaved soil. The lag phase before detection of significant 2,4-DCP mineralisation was reduced (from 7 days to ≤3 days) by pre-incubation of re-inoculated soils for 7 and 14 days before 2,4-DCP addition. This was attributed to the preferential utilisation of WSOC prior to the onset of 2,4-DCP mineralisation. Cumulative 14CO2 evolved after 21 days was significantly lower (p ≤ 0.05) from non-treated soil (25.3%) than re-inoculated soils (ca 45%). Experiments investigating sorption-biodegradation interactions of xenobiotics in soil require the physico-chemical properties of sterile and non-sterile treatments to be as comparable as possible. For fundamental studies, we suggest using re-inoculated autoclaved soil as an additional or alternative non-sterile treatment.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Soil Science