Soil Microbial Communities in Diverse Agroecosystems Exposed to the Herbicide Glyphosate.

Affiliation

Sustainable Agricultural Systems Laboratory, USDA-ARS, Beltsville, Maryland, USA [Email]

Abstract

Despite glyphosate's wide use for weed control in agriculture, questions remain about the herbicide's effect on soil microbial communities. The existing scientific literature contains conflicting results, from no observable effect of glyphosate to the enrichment of agricultural pathogens such as Fusarium spp. We conducted a comprehensive field-based study to compare the microbial communities on the roots of plants that received a foliar application of glyphosate to adjacent plants that did not. The 2-year study was conducted in Beltsville, MD, and Stoneville, MS, with corn and soybean crops grown in a variety of organic and conventional farming systems. By sequencing environmental metabarcode amplicons, the prokaryotic and fungal communities were described, along with chemical and physical properties of the soil. Sections of corn and soybean roots were plated to screen for the presence of plant pathogens. Geography, farming system, and season were significant factors determining the composition of fungal and prokaryotic communities. Plots treated with glyphosate did not differ from untreated plots in overall microbial community composition after controlling for other factors. We did not detect an effect of glyphosate treatment on the relative abundance of organisms such as Fusarium spp.IMPORTANCE Increasing the efficiency of food production systems while reducing negative environmental effects remains a key societal challenge to successfully meet the needs of a growing global population. The herbicide glyphosate has become a nearly ubiquitous component of agricultural production across the globe, enabling an increasing adoption of no-till agriculture. Despite this widespread use, there remains considerable debate on the consequences of glyphosate exposure. In this paper, we examine the effect of glyphosate on soil microbial communities associated with the roots of glyphosate-resistant crops. Using metabarcoding techniques, we evaluated prokaryotic and fungal communities from agricultural soil samples (n = 768). No effects of glyphosate were found on soil microbial communities associated with glyphosate-resistant corn and soybean varieties across diverse farming systems.

Keywords

agriculture,agroecology,corn,disease ecology,glyphosate,metabarcode,microbiome,organic,soybean,

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