Phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) and total soil fatty acid methyl esters (TSFAME), both lipid-based approaches used to characterize microbial communities, were compared with respect to their reliable detection limits, extraction precision, and ability to differentiate agricultural soils. Two sets of soil samples, representing seven crop types from California's Central Valley, were extracted using PLFA and TSFAME procedures. PLFA analysis required 10 times more soil than TSFAME analysis to obtain a reliable microbial community fingerprint and total fatty acid content measurement. Although less soil initially was extracted with TSFAME, total fatty acid (FA) content g−1 soil (DW) was more than 7-fold higher in TSFAME– versus PLFA-extracted samples. Sample extraction precision was much lower with TSFAME analysis than PLFA analysis, with the coefficient of variation between replicates being as much as 4-fold higher with TSFAME extraction. There were significant differences between PLFA– and TSFAME-extracted samples when biomarker pool sizes (mol% values) for bacteria, actinomycetes, and fungi were compared. Correspondence analysis (CA) of PLFA and TSFAME samples indicated that extraction method had the greatest influence on sample FA composition. Soil type also influenced FA composition, with samples grouping by soil type with both extraction methods. However, separate CAs of PLFA– and TSFAME extracted samples depicted strong differences in underlying sample groupings. Recommendations for the selection of extraction method are presented and discussed.
- Fatty acid
- Microbial community composition