Lignosulfonates are important by-products of the paper industry and may be transformed into different commodities. We studied the molecular properties of ammonium (LS-AM) and calcium Lignosulfonates (LS-C) and evaluated their bioactivity towards the early development of maize plantlets. The FT-IR, C-13 NMR and H-1-(13)CHSQC-NMR spectra showed that the two lignosulfonates varied in hydroxyl, sulfonate and phenolic content, while DOSY-NMR spectroscopy suggested a similar diffusivity. High Performance Size Exclusion Chromatography (HPSEC) was used to simulate the effects of root-exuded acids and describe the conformational dynamics of both LS substrates in acidic aqueous solutions. This technique showed that LS-C was stabilized by the divalent Ca2+ counterion, thus showing a greater conformational stability than LS-AM, whose components could not be as efficiently aggregated by the monovalent NH4+ counter-ion. The plant bioassays revealed that LS-AM enhanced the elongation of the root system, whereas LS-C significantly increased both total and shoot plant weights. We concluded that the lignosulfonate bioactivity on plant growth depended on the applied concentrations, theirmolecular properties and conformational stability.
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