Plant Nutrition, Quality and Food Authenticity

In the research theme “Plant Nutrition, Quality and Food Authenticity” we investigate the impact of plant nutrition on the quality of plant based food and feed. Our research is based on development and utilization of advanced analytical methods that enable us to study the effects of different fertilization strategies, agricultural management practices, microclimates etc. This has e.g. been utilized in studies aimed at unravelling systematic differences between organically and conventionally grown crops.

Our analytical methods include ion chromatography for separation and quantification of anions and cations in plants as well as a range of atomic spectroscopy based techniques for multi-elemental and stable isotope analysis. We have e.g. developed novel methods for high-throughput analysis of most elements of the periodic table (elemental fingerprinting) using ICP-MS. In addition, we conduct stable isotope ratio analysis of the light mass elements hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and sulphur in liquid, gaseous and solid samples.  

In our current projects, we focus on development of analytical methods for authenticity testing of high-value plant products. Consumers are increasingly requesting high-quality food that is nutritious and authentic. Products originating from specific geographical regions or that are produced or processed according to specific methods are thus sold at premium prices. Consequently, analytical methods that can verify the authenticity of plant products are urgently needed. Our methods for multi-elemental and stable isotope analysis have proven valuable for determining where and how plants have been grown and are thus suitable for food authenticity testing. Currently we aim to increase the sensitivity and specificity of these methods by investigating the isotopic signatures of specific plant compounds such as nitrate and sulphate (compound-specific stable isotope analysis).

Keywords: Analytical chemistry, Authenticity testing, Food quality, Mass spectrometry, Plant nutrition, Stable isotopes