Pesticide side effects in an agricultural soil ecosystem as measured by amoA expression quantification and bacterial diversity changes

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Background and Methods

Assessing the effects of pesticide hazards on microbiological processes in the soil is currently based on analyses that provide limited insight into the ongoing processes. This study proposes a more comprehensive approach. The side effects of pesticides may appear as changes in the expression of specific microbial genes or as changes in diversity. To assess the impact of pesticides on gene expression, we focused on the amoA gene, which is involved in ammonia oxidation. We prepared soil microcosms and exposed them to dazomet, mancozeb or no pesticide. We hypothesized that the amount of amoA transcript decreases upon pesticide application, and to test this hypothesis, we used reverse-transcription qPCR. We also hypothesized that bacterial diversity is affected by pesticides. This hypothesis was investigated via 454 sequencing and diversity analysis of the 16S ribosomal RNA and RNA genes, representing the active and total soil bacterial communities, respectively.

Results and Conclusion

Treatment with dazomet reduced both the bacterial and archaeal amoA transcript numbers by more than two log units and produced long-term effects for more than 28 days. Mancozeb also inhibited the numbers of amoA transcripts, but only transiently. The bacterial and archaeal amoA transcripts were both sensitive bioindicators of pesticide side effects. Additionally, the numbers of bacterial amoA transcripts correlated with nitrate production in N-amended microcosms. Dazomet reduced the total bacterial numbers by one log unit, but the population size was restored after twelve days. The diversity of the active soil bacteria also seemed to be re-established after twelve days. However, the total bacterial diversity as reflected in the 16S ribosomal RNA gene sequences was largely dominated by Firmicutes and Proteobacteria at day twelve, likely reflecting a halt in the growth of early opportunists and the re-establishment of a more diverse population. We observed no effects of mancozeb on diversity.
Translated title of the contributionPesticide side effects in an agricultural soil ecosystem as measured by amoA expression quantification and bacterial diversity changes
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0126080
JournalP L o S One
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2015

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