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Soil microbial properties in Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) corn cropping systems

Lupwayi, N.Z., Blackshaw, R.E. (2013). Soil microbial properties in Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) corn cropping systems, 63 127-133.


Growing Bt crops reduces the use of insecticides applied to them, but these crops could affect soil microorganisms and their activities. We evaluated the effects of Bt (Cry1Ab) corn (Zea mays L.) and deltamethrin ([S]-α-cyno-3-phenoxybenzyl [1R, 3R]-3-[2,2-dibromovinyl]-2,2-dimethylcyclopropane-1-carboxylate) insecticide application on soil microbial biomass C (MBC), β-glucosidase enzyme activity (final season only), bacterial functional diversity, and bacterial community-level physiological profiles (CLPPs) in corn monoculture in five seasons. We also determined if growing Bt corn in crop rotation would alter these effects. Statistical analysis of pooled data across seasons did not show any effects of Bt technology, insecticide application or crop rotation on soil microbial biomass or diversity even though differences between seasons and between the rhizosphere and bulk soil were observed. Annual analyses of results also showed that neither the Bt technology nor insecticide application affected soil MBC, enzyme activity, or functional diversity of bacteria in corn rhizosphere, but shifts in bacterial CLPPs due to Bt trait were observed in one year. Crop rotation effects on soil microbial properties were not observed in most cases. Where effects were observed, Bt corn grown in rotation resulted in greater MBC, enzyme activity and functional diversity than Bt corn grown in monoculture or conventional corn grown in rotation, and these effects were observed only in bulk soil. Therefore, the Bt technology is safe with respect to the non-target effects measured in this study. However, the effects of repeated use of Bt crops over many years on the soil environment should continue to be monitored. © 2012.

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