Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry

, Volume 411, Issue 11, pp 2447–2460 | Cite as

Multi-residue analysis of plant growth regulators and pesticides in traditional Chinese medicines by high-performance liquid chromatography coupled with tandem mass spectrometry

  • Zuliang Luo
  • Lixia Zhang
  • Yan Mou
  • Shengrong Cui
  • Zhe Gu
  • Jing Yu
  • Xiaojun MaEmail author
Research Paper


A multi-residue method was developed for the simultaneous determination of 24 plant growth regulators (PGRs) and 11 representative pesticides that were widely applied in plants used in traditional Chinese medicines (TCMs) by high-performance liquid chromatography coupled with tandem mass spectrometry (HPLC-MS/MS). The method was validated taking into consideration EU guidelines; calibration curves for all of the targeted analytes showed correlation coefficients (γ2) higher than 0.9901. The limits of detection (LOD) ranged from 0.2 to 8 μg/kg. The average recovery for all analytes in spiked samples ranged from 63.18 to 127.23%, with a relative standard deviation of ≤ 15%. The proposed method has been applied to 480 batches of TCM samples, including 34 species of medicinal plants, from the TCM market. The results showed that 14 PGRs and 5 pesticides were detected, including choline chloride, chlormequat, paclobutrazol, uniconazole, phoxim, etc. Among them, there were high detection rates for chlormequat (40%), choline chloride (100%), atonik (73.75%), abscisic acid (80.83%), and indole-3-acetic acid (41.25%). The residual level of paclobutrazol in Ophiopogonis radix exceeded the recommended maximum residue limits (MRLs) according to GB 2763–2016. In addition, 14 agrochemicals used in TCM planting were collected and detected; the result showed various PGRs were detected in samples registered as fertilizer. These results indicate that PGRs and pesticides were widely used in the cultivation of medicinal plants, especially for radix and rhizome herbs. The residue of targeted PGRs and pesticides in TCM samples from this study have a high frequency and high level.

Graphical abstract


Multi-residue Plant growth regulators Pesticides TCMs HPLC-MS/MS 



This work was supported by the CAMS Innovation Fund for Medical Sciences (CIFMS) (No. 2017-I2M-1-013) and Beijing Natural Science Foundation (No. 5172028).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Supplementary material

216_2019_1691_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (655 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 654 kb)
216_2019_1691_MOESM2_ESM.xlsx (76 kb)
Table S2 (XLSX 76 kb)
216_2019_1691_MOESM3_ESM.xlsx (19 kb)
Table S3 (XLSX 18.7 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zuliang Luo
    • 1
  • Lixia Zhang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Yan Mou
    • 2
  • Shengrong Cui
    • 1
  • Zhe Gu
    • 1
  • Jing Yu
    • 2
  • Xiaojun Ma
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Institute of Medicinal Plant Development, Chinese Academy of Medical SciencesPeking Union Medical CollegeBeijingChina
  2. 2.Yunnan Branch, Institute of Medicinal Plant DevelopmentChinese Academy of Medical SciencesJing HongChina

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