Microbial growth yield estimates from thermodynamics and its importance for degradation of pesticides and formation of biogenic non-extractable residues

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In biodegradation studies with isotope-labelled pesticides, fractions of non-extractable residues (NER) remain, but their nature and composition is rarely known, leading to uncertainty about their risk. Microbial growth leads to incorporation of carbon into the microbial mass, resulting in biogenic NER. Formation of microbial mass can be estimated from the microbial growth yield, but experimental data is rare. Instead, we suggest using prediction methods for the theoretical yield based on thermodynamics. Recently, we presented the Microbial Turnover to Biomass (MTB) method that needs a minimum of input data. We have estimated the growth yield of 40 organic chemicals (31 pesticides) using the MTB and two existing methods. The results were compared to experimental values, and the sensitivity of the methods was assessed. The MTB method performed best for pesticides. Having the theoretical yield and using the released CO2 as a measure for microbial activity, we predicted a range for the formation of biogenic NER. For the majority of the pesticides, a considerable fraction of the NER was estimated to be biogenic. This novel approach provides a theoretical foundation applicable to the evaluation and prediction of biogenic NER formation during pesticide degradation experiments, and may also be employed for the interpretation of NER data from regulatory studies.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSAR and QSAR in Environmental Research
Issue number8
Pages (from-to)629–650
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Xenobiotics
  • biodegradation
  • bound residues
  • microbial biomass
  • organic chemicals of environmental concern
  • turnover modelling

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