Feb 22, 2019 | Updated: 08:52 AM EST

Cattle Under Antibiotics Disrupts Soil Ecosystem, How Could It Be

Mar 29, 2017 07:27 PM EDT

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Manure of cattle under administered antibiotics disrupts the bacterial and fungal make-up of the surrounding soil. The Virginia Tech research team analyzed soil samples from 11 dairy farms in the United States.

According to Phys Org, a number of antibiotic resistant genes from the conducted soil analysis was 200 times greater in areas near the cattle manure compared to soil that wasn't. The study was headed by Michael Strickland, assistant professor of biological sciences in the College of Science and researcher with Virginia Tech's Global Change Center.

The fungi and bacteria in soils are important in the maintenance of ecosystem services such as climate regulation, soil fertility, and food production. The use of antibiotics on livestock such as cattle in the United States is a growing concern especially when they are used to prevent rather than treat a disease, as stated by Carl Wepking. Wepking is a doctoral student in biological sciences in the College of Science.

The current project, Strickland, and Wepking will focus on the impact of the antibiotic on soil communities inhabited by cattle. The project will consist three phases; surveying 11 dairy farms, sampling soil, and direct application of the antibiotic on the soil in the laboratory.

According to Facts About Beef, last January 1, 2017, federal guidelines required a written or electronic prescription, a Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) to authorize the use of antibiotics in cattle. This change will also prevent antibiotics used in human medicine to be used in the growth of livestock. The livestock owner should be able to obtain the said prescription with the aide of the veterinarian.

While the use of antibiotic in humans is a growing concern, its use also in livestock such as cattle poses also an important concern. The current research suggests that antibiotics may alter soil function in diverse but important ways, as stated by Serita Frey, professor of Microbial Ecology at the University of New Hampshire.

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