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Science of The Total Environment
Volume 820, 2022, 153170

Effects of biofertilizer on soil microbial diversity and antibiotic resistance genes

Le-Yang Yanga,b, Shu-Yi-Dan Zhoua,b, Chen-Shuo Lina,b, Xin-Rong Huanga,c

Key Laboratory of Urban Environment and Health, Institute of Urban Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 1799 Jimei Road, Xiamen 361021, China.

Abstract

Spread of antibiotic resistance or the presence of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) in pathogens is a globally recognized threat to human health. Numerous studies have shown that application of organic fertilizers may increase the risk of ARGs, however, the risk of resistance genes associated with biofertilizers is largely unknown. To investigate whether biofertilizer application introduces ARGs to the soil, we used high-throughput quantitative polymerization chain reaction (HT-qPCR) to explore the effect of biofertilizer application over three years on soil ARGs in three orchards with different locations in China. Redundancy analysis showed specific and significant differences in the beta diversity of soil bacteria and fungi between treatments (fertilizer vs. no fertilizer). One-way ANOVA analysis revealed findings of the main driver of the significant difference in microbial community structure between fertilizer and control treatment was the change in soil properties following the application of biofertilizer. A total of 139 ARGs and 27 MGEs (mobile genetic elements), and 46 ARGs and 6 MGEs from 11 major taxa were detected in biofertilizer and soil samples, respectively. Only the samples from Guangxi had significant differences in the detected number of ARGs and MGEs between fertilization and control. Through structural equation modeling (SEM), we found that soil properties indirectly affected ARGs by shaping bacterial diversity, while bacterial abundance directly affected ARGs. Biofertilizer application did not significantly alter the relative abundance of ARGs in soil due to the complexity of the soil environment and competition between exogenous and native microorganisms. This study provided new insights into the spread of the antibiotic resistome of the soil through biofertilizer applications.

Keywords: Biofertilizer, Soil quality, Microbial diversity, ARG risk, High-throughput quantitative PCR.

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