Prof. Marios Drosos1,2, Prof. Alessandro Piccolo2

1Institute of Resource, Ecosystem and Environment of Agriculture (IREEA), Nanjing Agricultural University, 1Weigang Road, 210095, Nanjing, China, 2Centro Interdipartimentale di Ricerca sulla Risonanza Magnetica Nucleare per l’Ambiente, l’Agroalimentare ed i Nuovi Materiali (CERMANU), Università di Napoli “Federico II”, via Università 100, 80055, Portici, Italy

Soil organic carbon (SOC) mineralization signifies reduction in soil fertility and release of greenhouse gases^1. An effective technology for soil carbon stabilization requires an extended knowledge of SOC turnover dynamics at a molecular level. To reach this goal, we applied the humeomics methodology on a soil cropped with maize or wheat after 1 and 3 years of conventional tillage and characterized the molecular development of soil humeome^2.

Humeomics used advanced analytical techniques, such as ESI-Orbitrap- and GC-MS, to identify both organosoluble and hydrosoluble molecules^3 solvated from the supramolecular SOC structure^2. Therefore, humeomics provided a measure of the degree of organic matter chemical protection, such as  the ratio of OC in the organosoluble/hydrosoluble material.

This ratio was 0.75 in the case of maize crop^4, and it dropped to 0.49 for the wheat crop. GC-MS analysis revealed that fatty acids were the main compounds contributing to the hydrophobic character in all organosoluble fractions. The unbound organosoluble fraction under maize comprised also of alkanes, which were oxidized to alcohols under wheat, while sugars dominated the bound fraction for both crops, although for wheat they were 50% lesser than in maize. The major difference in the organomineral compounds was due to the amides which were absent under wheat but stabilized under maize.

Our findings revealed that the complex supramolecular arrangement of the soil humeome is extremely dynamic and humeomics can identify the molecular changes induced by the different agricultural management in just 2 years period.

  1. Piccolo A. Carbon Sequestration in Agricultural Soils (Springer-Verlag, Berlin, 2012).
  2. Drosos M., Nebbioso A., Mazzei P., Vinci G., Spaccini R. & Piccolo A. Sci. Tot. Environ. 586, 807-816 (2017).
  3. Nebbioso A. & Piccolo A. Basis of a Humeomics science: Biomacromolecules 12, 1187-1199 (2011).
  4. Drosos M. & Piccolo A. Land Degr. Devel. 29, 1792-1805 (2018).

Biography: During my PhD, I have isolated and characterized Humic and Fulvic Acids from soils and lignites, creating a large data collation. I have collaborated with Dr. Jerry A Leenheer at USGS in Denver Colorado and we established a novel technique for Humic Acid fractionation. Then, from the experience gained, I created a synthetic model of humic substance without using catalysts that can be used as a tool to evaluate how specific conditions affect humification rates. For this achievement I was granted Travel award to participate at the International Meeting of Humic Substances Society (IHSS) in 2008 and a Training award to collaborate with Prof. Fritz H. Frimmel in the EBI Institute of KIT in Karlsruhe, Germany. Since I finished my PhD I have worked in a multidisciplinary group in University of Ioannina, Greece, for the characterization of novel carbon-based materials and created a novel organo-mineral material using HA and bentonite to co-adsorb phosphorous and ammonia, which I patented. During my Postdoc in KIT, I researched the interactions of natural organic matter (NOM) to TiO2, affecting the organic pollutant photocatalytical behavior. Then, I worked in CERMANU, Italy with Prof. Alessandro Piccolo involved in Humic Substances and Lignin research and in Humeomics fractionation. My career so far gave me the opportunity to establish a wide network of international collaboration. Currently I work as Associate Professor for Nanjing Agricultural University, China, for Soil Organic Matter Chemistry.

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