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Open Access Research

Estimation of the solubility parameters of model plant surfaces and agrochemicals: a valuable tool for understanding plant surface interactions

Mohamed Khayet1 and Victoria Fernández2*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Applied Physics I, Faculty of Physics, Universidad Complutense, Avda Complutense s/n, 28040, Madrid, Spain

2 Genetics and Eco-physiology Research Group, School of Forest Engineering, Technical University of Madrid, Ciudad Universitaria s/n, 28040, Madrid, Spain

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Theoretical Biology and Medical Modelling 2012, 9:45  doi:10.1186/1742-4682-9-45

Published: 14 November 2012

Abstract

Background

Most aerial plant parts are covered with a hydrophobic lipid-rich cuticle, which is the interface between the plant organs and the surrounding environment. Plant surfaces may have a high degree of hydrophobicity because of the combined effects of surface chemistry and roughness. The physical and chemical complexity of the plant cuticle limits the development of models that explain its internal structure and interactions with surface-applied agrochemicals. In this article we introduce a thermodynamic method for estimating the solubilities of model plant surface constituents and relating them to the effects of agrochemicals.

Results

Following the van Krevelen and Hoftyzer method, we calculated the solubility parameters of three model plant species and eight compounds that differ in hydrophobicity and polarity. In addition, intact tissues were examined by scanning electron microscopy and the surface free energy, polarity, solubility parameter and work of adhesion of each were calculated from contact angle measurements of three liquids with different polarities. By comparing the affinities between plant surface constituents and agrochemicals derived from (a) theoretical calculations and (b) contact angle measurements we were able to distinguish the physical effect of surface roughness from the effect of the chemical nature of the epicuticular waxes. A solubility parameter model for plant surfaces is proposed on the basis of an increasing gradient from the cuticular surface towards the underlying cell wall.

Conclusions

The procedure enabled us to predict the interactions among agrochemicals, plant surfaces, and cuticular and cell wall components, and promises to be a useful tool for improving our understanding of biological surface interactions.

Keywords:
Agrochemicals; Cuticle; Plant surfaces; Solubility parameter; Waxes