Effect of application solvents on heterotrophic and nitrifying populations in soil microcosms

Jerry L. Miller, Michael A. Sardo, Thomas L. Thompson, Raina M. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Agricultural practices may cause contamination of soil and ground water with a combination of organic compounds (pesticides and fuel) and nitrogen fertilizers. In coupled microcosm studies that monitored the mineralization of naphthalene and the nitrification of ammonia, it was observed that the solvent (dichloromethane) used to apply naphthalene to the soil inhibited nitrification, although there was no effect on naphthalene mineralization. Further studies were performed with a series of application solvents: methanol, acetonitrile, trichloromethane, and dichloromethane. Soil and solvent were allowed to equilibrate with ambient air for various times before capping and incubation of microcosm. Results indicated that dichloromethane equilibrated for 5 mins inhibited nitrification for at least 3 weeks relative to the control (water). Acetonitrile and trichloromethane similarly inhibited nitrification. Methanol and dichloromethane equilibrated for 60 mins also significantly delayed nitrification, although to a lesser extent. Inhibition of nitrification was not permanent, and nitrification activity was eventually restored in all systems tested. None of the solvents inhibited mineralization of the added carbon source. These results indicate that special care must be taken to ensure that applications solvents do not affect the activity of sensitive microbial populations, such as the nitrifiers, that may be part of a study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)447-451
Number of pages5
JournalEnvironmental Toxicology and Chemistry
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1997


  • Biodegradation
  • Chlorinated solvents
  • Nitrification
  • Organic compounds

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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