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  • TECHNICAL REPORTS

    1486

    Flash pyrolysis–gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (Py- GC/MS) was used to study the structural transformations of humic fractions formed as a result of composting processes of diverse organic materials (solid wastes of wineries, solid olive- mill wastes, domestic wastes, ovine manures plus straw, and mixtures of animal manures). Sodium hydroxide–extracted total humic-like extracts (THE; humic plus fulvic acids) from the composted and the initial noncomposted wastes and several reference humic and fulvic acids from soils were analyzed. Th ese results were compared with results from previous studies using 13C-cross polarization magic angle spinning–nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), UV-visible, and fl uorescence emission spectroscopies. Alkylbenzenes and alkylphenols predominate in the pyrograms of the soil humic acids, whereas the fulvic acids showed higher contents of phenolic and polysaccharide-derived compounds. Th e pyrolysates of THE from the composted samples showed an increase in aromatic and nitrogenated structures and a decrease in polysaccharide- derived compounds. Th e aromatic contents as determined by Py-GC/MS and 13C-NMR were well correlated in the reference humic substances and THE from composted materials (r = 0.99 and 0.94, respectively; P < 0.01) but not in the case of THE from noncomposted materials, probably due to an aliphatic enhancement in the pyrolysates of these samples and other secondary reactions. Th e content in alkylbenzenes was consistent with the variations found previously for several UV- visible and fl uorescence indexes as a function of the degree of humifi cation, suggesting their involvement in structures that are a characteristic feature of the formation and evolution of humic substances.

    Pyrolysis–Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry Identifi cation of Distinctive Structures Providing Humic Character to Organic Materials

    Marta Fuentes* and Roberto Baigorri CIPAV-Roullier Group Francisco J. González-Vila Instituto de Recursos Naturales y Agrobiología Gustavo González-Gaitano University of Navarra José M. García-Mina CIPAV-Roullier Group

    Composting is a suitable waste management method to reduce the amount of organic wastes that is accumulated in landfi lls (Mustin, 1987; Schaub and Leonard, 1996; Sharma et al., 1997; Brändli et al., 2005). Among the variety of organic wastes susceptible to composting are residues from agricultural, farming, and forestry activities (e.g., crop debris, residues from pruning, wood or sawdust, and cattle manures); sewage sludge or urban solid wastes; and industrial residues (e.g., wastes from olive oil processing, wineries, and paper mill wastes). Th e use of these composts in soils has been reported to increase soil fertility and crop production (Marchesini et al., 1988; Allievi et al., 1993; Abbasi et al., 2002), to enhance the availability of phosphorus and potassium (Giusquiani et al., 1988; Marchesini et al., 1988; Allievi et al., 1993; Weber et al., 2007), to improve soil structural stability and porosity (Gallardo-Lara and Nogales, 1987; Pagliai and Antisari, 1993; Bronick and Lal, 2005; Weber et al., 2007), and to reduce pests and diseases (Abbasi et al., 2002; Litterick et al., 2004).

    Compost quality is defi ned in terms of stability (i.e., resistance to rapid degradation of the organic matter present in the compost) and maturity (i.e., the lack of phytotoxicity on plant growth); both are related to the degree of humifi cation of the compost (Senesi and Plaza, 2007) and are dependent on the nature of the initial organic substrates, the time of composting, the tempera- ture, and the oxidative conditions during composting that infl u- ence microbial activities (Mustin, 1987). Composting processes involve the transformation of the initial fresh and labile organic matter into more stable, humic-like substances. Although com- posting has been described as an accelerated version of the decom- position processes naturally occurring in the soil (Ait Baddi et al.,

    Abbreviations: AHA, a commercial humic acid from Aldrich Chemicals; ALK, alkanes/ alkenes series; COMP, group of total humic extract obtained from composted materials; HAR, heteroaromatic compounds; HS, group of humic substances with high degree of humifi cation; LG, lignin-derived pyrolytic products; LIP, lipid derivatives; N, N-containing products; NON-COMP, group of THE obtained from the initial mixtures of fresh, noncomposted organic materials; PAH, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; PCA, principal component analysis; PS, products originated in the pyrolysis of polysaccharides; Py-GC/ MS, pyrolysis–gas chromatography/mass spectrometry; SSB, spinning side bands; THE, total humic extract; 13C-NMR, 13C nuclear magnetic resonance.

    M. Fuentes, R. Baigorri, and J.M. García-Mina, CIPAV-Roullier Group, Polígono Arazuri-Orcoyen, Calle C, No. 32, 31160, Orcoyen, Spain; F.J. González-Vila, Instituto de Recursos Naturales y Agrobiología, CSIC, P.O. Box 1052, 41080 Seville, Spain; G. González-Gaitano, Dep. Chemistry and Soil Sciences, Univ. of Navarra, 31080, Pamplona, Spain. Assigned to Associate Editor Robert Cook.

    Copyright © 2010 by the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America. All rights reserved. No part of this periodical may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including pho- tocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

    J. Environ. Qual. 39:1486–1497 (2010) doi:10.2134/jeq2009.0180 Published online 20 May 2010. Received 13 May 2009. *Corresponding author (mfuentes@timacagro.es). © ASA, CSSA, SSSA 5585 Guilford Rd., Madison, WI 53711 USA

    TECHNICAL REPORTS: WASTE MANAGEMENT

  • Fuentes, et al.: Pyrolytic Descriptors of Humic Character 1487

    2004), humic substances formed in soils and sediments are the result of intense organo-mineral interactions during years or centuries that cannot take place in the compost pile. Th erefore, because humic substances are the main fraction of soil organic matter responsible for the agrobiological and physicochemical eff ects that contribute to soil fertility (Stevenson, 1994), the chemical and physicochemical characterization of the humic- like substances formed as the result of the composting pro- cesses is needed to compare their properties with the molecular, structural, and functional features of humic substances with long residence time formed in soils.

    Due to the diffi culty of studying these ill-defi ned macromo- lecular fractions with heterogeneous chemical composition, the combined use of diff erent analytic techniques is recommended. Carbon-to-nitrogen ratios, soluble organic carbon concentra- tion in water extracts, or the humic-to-fulvic acid ratio can be used as a fi rst estimation of the organic matter transformation during composting (Senesi and Plaza, 2007). Nondegradative methods, such as fl uorescence, UV-visible and infrared spec- troscopies, and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectros- copy, are useful in evaluating the degree of humifi cation of humic substances extracted from organic materials of diverse origin (Korshin et al., 1997; Ait Baddi et al., 2004; Fuentes et al., 2006). Degradative methods, such as analytical pyroly- sis, may provide structural information through the division of the humic substances into smaller fragments (Bracewell et al., 1989; Stevenson, 1994). Among the diff erent pyrolytic assess- ments, fl ash pyrolysis coupled with gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (Py-GC/MS), tetramethylammonium hydrox- ide–induced thermochemolysis Py-GC/MS, or pyrolysis–fi eld ionization–mass spectrometry, are the most commonly used in the study of humic substances (Leinweber and Schulten, 1999; González-Vila et al., 2001). Analytical Py-GC/MS has been proposed as a reproducible technique that allows the char- acterization and diff erentiation of humic matter from various origins, including composted materials (Schulten and Gleixner, 1999; Dorado et al., 2003; Dignac et al., 2005; Arias et al., 2006). However, the results should be analyzed bearing in mind that pyrolysis of the sample is not complete; that some com- pounds, especially polar compounds, cannot be observed in the pyrolysates of the samples; and that during pyrolysis some sec- ondary rearrangements can take place (Saiz-Jiménez, 1994a).

    In this context, fl ash Py-GC/MS has been applied on total humic extracts (containing humic and fulvic fractions) from diff erent composted materials and from their corresponding fresh materials, as well as International Humic Substances Society standard and reference humic and fulvic acids, to evaluate the main changes in the chemical composition as the result of the composting processes. Th is study might allow us to assess the similarities and diff erences between the pyrolytic behavior of humic substances with long residence time formed in soils and the humic-like substances formed as the result of composting of organic materials.

    Th ese results have been compared with those obtained in previous studies for the same batch of samples, in which they were analyzed by means of nondestructive techniques (UV-visible, fl uorescence, and 13C nuclear magnetic resonance [13C-NMR] spectroscopies). Th is complementary study has been done with two goals: (i) to evaluate if results from pyrol-

    ysis analysis and 13C-NMR showed any relationship and (ii) to study if there were any connections between the structures identifi ed by Py-GC/MS and spectroscopic indexes indicative of the degree of maturity (in humic-like samples) or humifi ca-