Does microwaving or freezing reduce the losses of non-structural carbohydrates during plant sample processing?

Key message Non-structural carbohydrates (NSC) are the main form of carbon storage in broadleaved trees; precise NSC quantification is relevant to predict forest resilience. Sample microwaving before drying is considered to reduce NSC losses; however, evidence is scarce. We demonstrate that microwaving leaf and branch sapwood samples before drying did not significantly reduce NSC losses with respect to freezing or direct stove-drying.
Context Non-structural carbohydrates (NSC) mediate tree survival, but precise determinations of NSC concentrations remain challenging. An unclear aspect is whether carbohydrate losses during sample processing can be reduced by different sample treatments.
Aims We postulated that due to higher metabolic rates, leaves should be more responsive to sample treatments than branch sapwood, and resource-acquisitive species should be more responsive to sample treatment than resource-conservative species.
Methods In leaves and branch sapwood of six tree species, we compared the effects of three sample treatments on the concentrations of NSC, starch, and low-molecular weight sugars: sample microwaving before drying (microwave), sample freezing at − 20 °C before drying (freezing), and only drying (stove).
Results We found that across species and tissues, freezing led to significantly higher NSC and sugar concentrations than microwave and stove. This effect was, however, entirely driven by the leaves. Although the effect of sample treatments on NSC, starch, and sugar concentrations differed among species, resource-acquisitive species were not necessarily more affected by sample treatments than resource-conservative species.
Conclusion Results suggest that either freezing or microwaving does not reduce carbohydrate losses in branch sapwood during sample handling and processing; however, freezing reduces leaf sugar and NSC losses when compared with microwave or direct stove-drying.

Functional traits, Starch hydrolysis, Microwave, Respiration, Starch, Sugars

Piper, F.I., Reyes, A. Does microwaving or freezing reduce the losses of non-structural carbohydrates during plant sample processing?. Annals of Forest Science 77, 34 (2020).

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Data availability
The datasets generated during and analyzed during the current study are publicly available in the Dryad repository (Piper and Reyes 2020).

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