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Title: Glyphosate toxicity and the effects of long-term vegetation control on soil microbial communities

Author: Busse, Matt D.; Ratcliff, Alice W.; Stestak, Carol J.; Powers, Robert F.;

Date: 2001

Source: Soil Biology & Biochemistry, Vol. 33: 1777-1789

Publication Series: Miscellaneous Publication

Description: We assessed the direct and indirect effect of the herbicide glyphosate on soil microbial communities from soil bioassays at glyphosate concentrations up to 100-fold greater than expected following a single field application. Indirect effects on microbial biomass, respiration, and metabolic diversity (Biolog and catabolic response profile) were compared seasonally after 9-13 years of vegetation control using repeated glyphosate applications in a replicated field study. Three pine plantations were selected to provide a range of soil characteristics associated with glyphosate binding (clay, Fe and Al oxide content) and site growing potential from the lowest to the highest in northern California. Glyphosate was toxic to bacteria and fungi from each plantation when grown in soil-free media. Culturable populations were reduced, as was the growth rate and metabolic diversity of surviving bacteria, by increasing concentrations of glyphosate. This toxicity was not expressed when glyphosate was added directly to soil, however. Microbial respiration was unchanged at expected field concentrations (5-50 μg g-1), regardless of soil, and was stimulated by concentrations up to 100-fold greater. Increased microbial activity resulted from utilization of glyphosate as an available carbon substrate. Estimated N and P inputs from glyphosate were inconsequential to microbial activity. Long-term, repeated applications of glyphosate had minimal affect on seasonal microbial characteristics despite substantial changes in vegetation composition and growth. Instead, variation in microbial characteristics was a function of time of year and site quality. Community size, activity, and metabolic diversity generally were greatest in the spring and increased as site quality improved, regardless of herbicide treatment. Our findings suggest that artificial media assays are of limited relevance in predicting glyphosate toxicity to soil organisms and that field rate applications of glyphosate should have little or no affect on soil microbial communities in ponderosa pine plantations.

Keywords: ponderosa pine, roundup, microbial biomass, substrate-induced respiration, metabolic diversity

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Busse, Matt D.; Ratcliff, Alice W.; Stestak, Carol J.; Powers, Robert F. 2001. Glyphosate toxicity and the effects of long-term vegetation control on soil microbial communities. Soil Biology & Biochemistry, Vol. 33: 1777-1789


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