Spreading antibiotics in the soil affects microbial ecosystems

March 30, 2009

Antibiotics used extensively in intensive livestock production may be having an adverse effect on agricultural soil ecosystems. In a presentation to the Society for General Microbiology meeting at Harrogate International Centre, today (Monday 30 March), Dr Heike Schmitt from the University of Utrecht, the Netherlands described how antibiotics passed from the animals in manure that was then spread on farmland. Although higher organisms, such as earthworms, would only be affected at unrealistic concentrations of antibiotics, changes in soil bacterial communities have been found repeatedly using molecular microbiological techniques.

Bacteria involved in the nitrogen cycle, which replenishes nutrients in the , seem to be particularly affected. The effects persisted over several weeks and were still seen even when the had broken down significantly. In addition the microbial population of the soil changed as fungi replaced the bacteria suppressed by the antibiotics.

"The antibiotic concentrations that to date have been found in agricultural soils are smaller than the concentrations at which the adverse effects start occurring", said Dr Schmitt, "However, this might not be the case for 'hot spots", for example, when manure is not mixed thoroughly in the soil."

Source: Society for General Microbiology

Explore further: Salmonella in garden birds responsive to antibiotics

Related Stories

Salmonella in garden birds responsive to antibiotics

June 2, 2008

Scientists at the University of Liverpool have found that Salmonella bacteria found in garden birds are sensitive to antibiotics, suggesting that the infection is unlike the bacteria found in livestock and humans.

Improving swine waste fertilizer

July 8, 2008

Swine production generates large amounts of waste. While this waste contains nutrients that may serve as fertilizer when applied to agricultural fields, the ratio of nutrients in the waste is different than what a crop requires.

Nanotechnology used to probe effectiveness of antibiotics

February 4, 2009

A group of researchers led by scientists from the London Centre for Nanotechnology, in collaboration with a University of Queensland researcher, have discovered a way of using tiny nano-probes to help understand how an antibiotic ...

Recommended for you

Trade in invasive plants is blossoming

October 3, 2015

Every day, hundreds of different plant species—many of them listed as invasive—are traded online worldwide on auction platforms. This exacerbates the problem of uncontrollable biological invasions.

Ancestral background can be determined by fingerprints

September 28, 2015

A proof-of-concept study finds that it is possible to identify an individual's ancestral background based on his or her fingerprint characteristics – a discovery with significant applications for law enforcement and anthropological ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.