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Research article2003Peer reviewed

Comparison of signature lipid methods to determine microbial community structure in compost

Steger K, Jarvis A, Smars S, Sundh I


The microbial community structure changes substantially during the composting process and simple methods to follow these changes can potentially be used to estimate compost maturity. In this study, two such methods, the microbial identification (MIDI) method and the ester-linked (EL) procedure to determine the composition of long-chain fatty acids, were applied to compost samples of different age. The ability of the two methods to describe the microbial succession was evaluated by comparison with phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) analysis on the same samples. Samples were taken from a 200-1 laboratory compost reactor, treating source-separated organic household waste. During the initial stages of the process, the total concentration of fatty acids in compost samples treated with the EL and MIDI methods was many times higher than with the PLFA method. This was probably due to the presence of fatty acids from the organic material in the original waste. However, this substantial difference between PLFA and the other two methods was not found later in composting. Although the PLFA method gave the most detailed information about the growth and overall succession of the microbial community, the much simpler MIDI and EL methods also successfully described the shift from the initially dominating straight chain fatty acids to iso- and anteiso branched, 10 Me branched and cyclopropane fatty acids in the later stages of the process. Thus, the MIDI and EL extraction methods appear to be suitable for analysis of microbial FAME profiles in compost, particularly in the later stages of the process. (C) 2003 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved


compost maturity; ester-linked fatty acids; microbial succession; MIDI; phospholipid fatty acids

Published in

Journal of Microbiological Methods
2003, Volume: 55, number: 2, pages: 371-382