Effects of soil salinity on rhizosphere soil microbes in transgenic Bt cotton fields

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Abstract or Summary

With increased cultivation of transgenic Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) cotton in the saline alkaline soil of China, assessments of transgenic crop biosafety have focused on the effects of soil salinity on rhizosphere microbes and Bt protein residues. In 2013 and 2014, investigations were conducted on the rhizosphere microbial biomass, soil enzyme activities and Bt protein contents of the soil under transgenic Bt cotton (variety GK19) and its parental non-transgenic cotton (Simian 3) cultivated at various salinity levels (1.15, 6.00 and 11.46 dS m−1). Under soil salinity stress, trace amounts of Bt proteins were observed in the Bt cotton GK19 rhizosphere soil, although the protein content increased with cotton growth and increased soil salinity levels. The populations of halophilic bacteria, phosphate solubilizing bacteria, ammonifying bacteria, nitrifying bacteria and denitrifying bacteria decreased with increased soil salinity in the Bt and non-Bt cotton rhizosphere soil, and the microbial biomass carbon, microbial respiration and soil catalase, urease and alkaline phosphatase activity also decreased. Correlation analyses showed that the increased Bt protein content in the Bt cotton rhizosphere soil may have been caused by the slower decomposition of soil microorganisms, which suggests that salinity was the main factor influencing the relevant activities of the soil microorganisms and indicates that Bt proteins had no clear adverse effects on the soil microorganisms. The results of this study may provide a theoretical basis for risk assessments of genetically modified cotton in saline alkaline soil.

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