Reducing water use by alternate-furrow irrigation with livestock wastewater reduces antibiotic resistance gene abundance in the rhizosphere but not in the non-rhizosphere.


Farmland Irrigation Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Xinxiang 453002, China. Electronic address: [Email]


Livestock wastewater is rich in nutrients but may contain antibiotics and antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs). Their discharge to watercourses or soil may result in proliferation of ARGs. Irrigation with wastewater appears to be the most feasible option of disposing of it. One efficient irrigation technology used in arid regions is alternate-furrow irrigation (AFI) by alternately drying part of the plant roots for a prolonged period to physiologically reduce transpiration without compromising yield. However, the extent to which AFI with wastewater influences the concentration of antibiotics and spread of ARGs in soil is poorly understood. The purpose of this paper is to investigate how AFI using swine wastewater alters antibiotic kinetics and ARGs abundance under different irrigation rates, using pepper as the model plant. We examined three AFI treatments using 50%, 65% and 80% of the amount of water employed in sufficient conventional furrow irrigation. Each treatment had a groundwater irrigation control. The results showed that antibiotic concentrations and relative ARGs abundance in the top 20 cm of soil did not increase with the irrigation amount, although they were higher than those in the groundwater-irrigated soils. The relative ARGs abundance in the soil was modulated by irrigation amount and reducing the irrigation amount in AFI reduced ARGs dispersion only in rhizosphere. When the soil moisture was close to field capacity, ARGs were more abundant in rhizosphere than in non-rhizosphere, possibly because the rhizosphere is rich in microbes and increasing antibiotic concentrations due to an increase in irrigation rate favors antibiotic-resistant microbiome in competing for substrates. These, however, were not mirrored in the relative ARGs abundance in the roots. These results have important implications as it revealed that reducing the input of antibiotics and ARGs into soil with AFI does not necessarily reduce ARGs proliferation.


Alternate-furrow irrigation,Antibiotics resistance,Irrigation amount,Livestock wastewater,Water quality,