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Diurnal Pattern of Leaf, Flower and Fruit Specific Ambient Volatiles above an Oil Palm Plantation in Pará State, Brazil


Oil palm plantations are rapidly expanding in the tropics because of insatiable global demand for fruit oil to be used in food, biofuels and cosmetics. Here we show that three tissue-specific volatiles can be quantified in ambient air above an African-American hybrid oil palm plantation in Brazil and linked photosynthesis (isoprene), floral scent (estragole), and for the first time, fruit oil processing (6-methyl-5-hepten-2-one, MHO). Plant enclosure techniques verified their tissue specific emission sources with ambient concentrations displaying distinct diurnal patterns above the canopy. Isoprene concentrations were near zero at night, but dramatically increased during the day while estragole showed elevated concentrations at night suggesting a light-independent, temperature-driven emission pattern from flowers. MHO also showed elevated concentrations at night and both estragole and MHO increased during the day. Our observations demonstrate that the African-American oil palm hybrid is strong isoprene emitter and suggest that MHO is a specific oxidation product of lycopene released during the industrial processing of palm oil. This study highlights the potential value of quantifying volatile oil palm signals in the atmosphere as a novel, non-invasive method to better understand biological functioning and its interactions with the environment including carbon assimilation, floral-insect interactions, and fruit oil production/processing.

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