Myclobutanil is a fungicide of considerable concern to the cannabis industry. Its removal from extracted cannabinoid oil is the hot topic among processors and extractors. In today’s post we will present how flash chromatography can be used for the remediation of the pesticide, thereby significantly reducing it from the final product in a single step.
Flash column chromatography has been applied to cannabis oils. We have previously posted an orthogonal approach to isolating cannabinoids from winterized extract. Give it read if you have not seen it.
Myclobutanil, aka Myclo and commercially known as Eagle 20®, is a commonly used fungicide applied in agriculture to reduce and often prevent powdery mildew and leaf spots, Figure 1.
Without going into detail about the pesticide’s toxicity, it’s needless to say that the presence of Myclo in consumer products is highly regulated by state public health agencies. Depending on your geographical location, acceptable limits of this pesticide can range in the low parts-per-million (ppm) or even part-per-billion (ppb) concentrations, Table 1.
Table 1. State action limits for myclobutanil
|Action level (ppm)||0.02||0.2||9|
What can be done to remove Myclo from cannabis oils? Some work we recently did shows a successful attempt to remove a significant amount of Myclobutanil from THC distillate by way of flash chromatography. Flash column chromatography has already been shown useful to isolate cannabinoids.
To perform the study we started with about 50 grams of THC distillate and then added a calculated amount of Eagle 20 to formulate a Myclo concentration of a whopping 111.5 ppm. Yep, that’s a lot! Typical Myclo concentrations are in the range of 1-10 ppm if its present at all. So this experiment will show how even a highly contaminated extract can be successfully cleaned up.
To assure that the purified THC was free of Myclo, the collected material was analyzed using a Shimadzu GCMS-QP2020.
First, we ran a normal-phase purification experiment utilizing the 25g SNAP KP-Sil column loaded with 2.5 grams of Myclo-spiked sample. That is a mass load ratio (sample/column) of 10%. An optimized step gradient with common organic solvents provided a single peak comprised mostly of THC cannabinoid, Figure 2. Fractions 2, 3 were pooled and evaporated to remove any trace amounts of organic solvent. The dried sample was solvated in acetonitrile (ACN) and injected into the gas chromatography-mass spectrometer (GC-MS) system.
A flash purification investigation wouldn’t be complete without including reversed-phase (RP) chromatography. For this experiment, we utilized a 30g SNAP Ultra C18 column loaded with Myclo-spiked sample to a mass/mass ratio of 3%.
Sometimes chromatographic separation is enhanced with a pH modifier. To explore this potential, we decided to split the RP purification experiments into two runs and evaluate both neutral and acidic gradients. For the acidic gradient, formic acid was added to the solvent at a concentration of 1%. Optimized linear gradients of ethanol+water and ethanol+water+formic acid provided single peaks of mostly THC cannabinoid, Figure 3. Fractions 6-11 were pooled in both runs and evaporated to dryness. The resulting dried sample was then solvated in ACN and injected into the GC-MS system.
Fractions from all purification runs were analyzed for content and purity by GC-MS, Table 2. This data shows that flash chromatography using neutral pH reversed-phase flash chromatography removed 99.7% of the myclobutanil from the sample and normal-phase flash removed 99.6%. The data show adding formic acid did not improve myclobutanil remediation efficiency.
Table 2. Myclobutanil remediation efficiency results
|Spiked THC||Normal-phase||Reversed-phase||Reversed-phase with acid|
|Myclobutanil content (ppm)||111.54||0.44||0.31||1.09|
The 99 plus percent clearance in both applications is quite an accomplishment provided the very high starting Myclo concentration in our distillate sample. It’s common chromatographic knowledge that sample load ratios can impact separation efficiency. What if our sample had only 10 ppm concentration of Myclo instead of 111 ppm? What if we utilized the orthogonal approach and ran both normal- and reversed-phase separations in step sequence to remove Myclo from a single sample? Can scavengers resins be utilized to reduce/remove pesticides? I encourage you to stay tuned to our Cannabis Blog as we’ve got much more planned in the very near future.
Biotage would like to thank NorCal Analytical for their contributions in these experiments.
So, how have you addressed removing pesticides from plant extracts? Please share so that our readers can learn.
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