Implications of dietary phenolic compounds for human health and disease prevention have been indicated by a body of literature. A greenhouse pot study was performed to investigate the impacts of fertilizer source and preventive insecticide application on phenolic compound levels in pac choi [Brassica rapa (L.) cv. Mei Qing]. A two-way randomized complete-block design with five replications was used in this experiment. Fertilizer source consisted of two levels: conventional fertilizer (pre-plant application of Osmocote slow-release fertilizer), and organic fertilizer (pre-plant application of vermicompost and fertigation with compost tea and fish emulsion). Insecticide application consisted of three levels: organic (pyrethrin) vs. conventional (permethrin), and a plain water control. At harvest, total phenolics and individual phenolic compounds in pac choi leaves (blades) were analyzed by Folin assay and HPLC, respectively. Head weight of pac choi was significantly higher under conventional fertilizer treatment, while it was not affected by insecticides. Total phenolic content of pac choi was significantly increased by organic fertilizer treatment. HPLC results indicated that organic fertilizer treatment resulted in significantly higher levels of individual phenolic compounds, including chlorogenic acid and ferulic acid. In contrast, preventive insecticide application showed little effect on the phenolics in pac choi. Correlation analysis excluded the influence of plant size (head weight) on phenolic content in pac choi. Differential N-forms, rates of nutrient release, and/or variable nutrient content in organic and conventional fertilizer treatments may contribute to elevated phenolic content in organically fertilized pac choi.
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