Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: SURVIVAL AND TRANSPORT OF PATHOGENS FROM ANIMAL PRODUCTION SYSTEMS WITHIN LANDSCAPES OF THE SOUTHEASTERN USA
2006 Annual Report


1.What major problem or issue is being resolved and how are you resolving it (summarize project aims and objectives)? How serious is the problem? Why does it matter?
Community outbreaks of disease have occurred that have been caused by pathogenic microorganisms associated with animal waste. By 1998 animal production systems in the U.S. produced annually 1.5 billion metric tons of waste in the form of manure, litter, and slurry. Most of this waste is applied to agricultural fields. The risk that manure from animal agriculture can contaminate water and sources of food is a concern that needs to be addressed. To do so, research is needed to fill gaps in our knowledge of the survival and movement of manure-borne pathogens in terrestrial and aquatic environments. Improved methods of detection and enumeration of these pathogenic microorganisms need to be developed for monitoring the presence of these pathogens in the environment. Basic research on the survival dynamics and transport across various landscapes is needed for estimating risk to public health, for developing best management practices for animal wastes, and for developing mathematic models for predicting risk of pathogen contamination. To meet these goals our research will focus on three objectives: 1. Develop an improved method of detection for the bacterial pathogen Salmonella in environmental soil, poultry litter, and water samples with quantitative, real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR). 2. Determine inactivation or die-off rates of Salmonella and the fecal indicator bacteria Escherichia coli and Enterococcus spp. in field soils under controlled and field conditions. 3. Determine the hydrologic transport characteristics of the bacterial pathogens Salmonella, Campylobacter, Clostridium perfringens, and the fecal indicator bacteria (Escherichia coli and enterococci) at the field plot and small watershed scales.

How serious is the problem? Why does it matter?

Thousands of Americans become ill each year through exposure to organisms that are known to exist in animal manures. Much of the manure is applied to crop and pasture land to provide plant nutrients, but little is known about the risks of survival and transport of pathogens in the environment that might be associated with land applications of manure. A better understanding of potential environmental and human health risk associated with on-farm handling and land application of poultry litter is needed. Producers need cost-effective and safe ways to utilize nutrients in manures to improve sustainability of their systems. This research should contribute to sustained animal production and income to rural communities and safe, healthy, and economical food and water supply for consumers. The research will support federal action and regulatory agencies, including the USDA-Natural Resource Conservation Service and the Environmental Protection Agency, and provide technical expertise to better respond to national food safety and environmental emergencies.

This research relates directly to the Pathogen Component of the National Program 206, Manure and Byproduct Utilization. It is part of the Food Safety Initiative funded by Congress in FY99 to initiate a broad, integrated research program to address health and environmental concerns that are associated with food production systems in the US, and supports the Food Safety National Program 108 (Microbial Pathogen Component). This research will make contributions to National Program 205 (Rangeland, Pastures and Forages), National Program 207 (Integrated Farming Systems), and National Program 201 (Water Quality and Management).


2.List by year the currently approved milestones (indicators of research progress)
This project, titled “Survival and Transport of Pathogens from Animal Production Systems within Landscapes of the Southeastern USA” (6612-32000-045-00D) was certified on April, 2, 2005. It replaced the project “Preventing Pathogen Transport to Southern Piedmont Landscapes from Animal Production Systems” (6612-32000-037-00D).

Objective 1: Develop an improved limit of detection method for Salmonella in environmental soil, poultry litter, and water samples with quantitative, real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR).

1. 2006: Complete experiments with ultra-pure water and environmental water samples, and begin experiments on soil and litter samples. 2. 2007: Complete experiments with soil and litter samples. Prepare results of experiments for presentation at scientific meetings, technology transfer, and peer-reviewed journals.

Objective 2: Determine inactivation rates of Salmonella and the fecal indicator bacteria Escherichia coli and Enterococcus spp. in field soils under controlled and field conditions.

1. 2007: Initiate laboratory experiments to determine inactivation rates of Salmonella and the fecal indicator bacteria under controlled conditions. Establish experimental field sites for determining the inactivation rates of Salmonella and the fecal indicator bacteria under field conditions. 2. 2008: Complete laboratory experiments, and analyze data to develop rates of inactivation for Salmonella and the fecal indicator bacteria. Prepare laboratory results for access to web-site, presentations and meetings, and peer-reviewed journals. Initiate the field experiments at the previously prepared sites. 3. 2009: Complete field experiments, analyze data, and prepare results for access to web-site, presentations at meetings, and peer-reviewed journals.

Objective 3: Determine the hydrologic transport characteristics of Salmonella, fecal indicator bacteria (Escherichia coli and the enterococci) and other pathogens such as C. perfringens and Campylobacter at field plot and small first-order watershed scales.

1. 2006: Apply poultry litter to watersheds for summer and winter crops; determine the load of fecal bacteria on the watershed; measure and collect runoff from storms and analyze for fecal bacteria. 2. 2007: Set up rain simulation experiments. Apply poultry litter to watersheds for summer and winter crops; determine load of fecal bacteria on the watershed; measure and collect runoff from storms and analyze for fecal bacteria. Analyze data. 3. 2008: Continue with rain simulation experiments. Apply poultry litter to watersheds for summer and winter crops; determine the load of fecal bacteria on the watershed; measure and collect runoff from storms and analyze for fecal bacteria. Analyze data. Prepare results for access to web-site, presentations at meetings, and peer-reviewed journals. Participate in a conference of ARS scientists involved in poultry litter research in the Southeast to prepare extension type documents to be disseminated to customers and stake holders. 4. 2009: Complete rain simulation experiments. Analyze complete data set from rain simulation experiments. Apply poultry litter to watersheds for summer and winter crops; determine the load of fecal bacteria on the watershed; measure and collect runoff from storms and analyze for fecal bacteria. Analyze data. Prepare results for access to web-site, presentations at meetings, and peer-reviewed journals. Participate in a conference of ARS scientists involved in poultry litter research in the Southeast to prepare extension type documents to be disseminated to customers and stake holders. 5. 2010: Complete analyses of data from the rain simulation and watershed experiments. Prepare results for access to web-site, presentations at meetings, and peer-reviewed journals. Participate in a conference of ARS scientists involved in poultry litter research in the Southeast to prepare extension type documents to be disseminated to customers and stake holders.


4a.List the single most significant research accomplishment during FY 2006.
Applications of poultry litter to cropped watersheds at levels recommended for crop nutrition appear not to impact surface water with endocrine disrupting gender regulating hormones and fecal bacteria: Annual US broiler production is in the billions, and a byproduct of this commodity is millions of tons of poultry litter much of which is routinely spread on agricultural fields as a fertilizer for crops and pasture. Poultry litter is also a source of bacterial pathogens such as Salmonella and fecal indicator bacteria such as E. coli and fecal enterococci, as well as the gender regulating hormones estradiol and testosterone. Our objective was to determine if applications of poultry litter to cropped watersheds at levels recommended to meet the nitrogen requirement of the crops contributed to the load of hormones and fecal bacteria to soil and runoff. We determined the quantity of hormones and fecal bacteria in the litter that was applied to the watersheds. During rain storms runoff from the watersheds was measured and sampled for the two hormones and fecal bacteria. Under conditions of drought and conservation tillage the rates of poultry litter application had no significant effect on the soil community of fecal indicator bacteria or on the total amount of hormones coming off the watersheds with runoff. Elevated concentrations of fecal indicator bacteria, however, were observed when rain events and runoff occurred only a few weeks after litter application. This information is important for poultry producers and extension agents who are involved in manure management. This accomplishment undertaken under the previous CRIS contributes to the current research objectives of the Manure and Byproducts Utilization National Program (NP206) Action Plan Problem Area 2. Fate and Transport of Pathogens, and Problem Area 3. Pharmaceutically Active compounds and to the ARS Strategic Plan performance measure to develop manure and byproduct management practices and treatment technologies that improve soil quality; reduce inputs of nutrients, sediment, and pathogens to surface and ground waters; and reduce air emissions of gases and particulates from animal feeding operations.


4b.List other significant research accomplishment(s), if any.
The following accomplishment is aligned with the problem of Pharmaceutically Active Compounds of the Action Plan for Pathogens. Movement of the Bioactive Reproductive Hormones Estradiol and Testosterone through Soil Characterized. The poultry industry generates millions of tons of poultry litter annually, much of which is applied to pastures and cropped fields as fertilizer. Both estradiol and testosterone are natural components of poultry litter. Scientists, policy-makers, and the poultry industry require information to determine if these components pose an environmental risk when litter is appropriately applied. Scientists at the USDA-ARS J. Phil Campbell Sr. Natural Resource Conservation Center in Watkinsville, GA, in collaboration with scientists at the University of Georgia initiated a study to determine if and how these hormones leach through soil to groundwater and streams after a litter application. Intact soil columns were removed from an experimental field site at the J. Phil Campbell Sr. Natural Resource Conservation Center and taken to a laboratory at the University of Georgia where the radioactively labeled estradiol and testosterone (along with the non-reactive tracer, chloride) were applied to the surface of the soil columns in concentrations comparable to those contained in litter followed by the application of several liters of water, and the water that leached out of the column was collected and analyzed for the hormones and the chloride tracer. Results indicated that 27% of the estradiol and 42% of the testosterone leached through the soil columns with the chloride, and approximately 50% of the remaining soil-bound hormones were detected in the upper 10 cm of soil. These data indicated that these two sex hormones can move through worm holes, large interconnected pores, and cracks in the soil column, a phenomenon referred to as preferential flow. This information can be used by the poultry industry and environmental agencies to ensure safe application of the millions of tons of poultry litter generated annually in the USA. This accomplishment undertaken under the previous CRIS contributes to the current research objectives of the Manure and Byproducts Utilization National Program (NP206) Action Plan Problem Area 3. Pharmaceutically Active compounds, and to the ARS Strategic Plan performance measure to develop manure and byproduct management practices and treatment technologies that improve soil quality; reduce inputs of nutrients, sediment, and pathogens to surface and ground waters; and reduce air emissions of gases and particulates from animal feeding operations.


4c.List significant activities that support special target populations.
None.


5.Describe the major accomplishments to date and their predicted or actual impact.
None to date.


6.What science and/or technologies have been transferred and to whom? When is the science and/or technology likely to become available to the end-user (industry, farmer, other scientists)? What are the constraints, if known, to the adoption and durability of the technology products?
None to date.


7.List your most important publications in the popular press and presentations to organizations and articles written about your work. (NOTE: List your peer reviewed publications below).
Jenkins, M.B. “Detection and Enumeration of Fecal Pathogens and Indicator Bacteria from Cattle and Poultry Litter in the North Unit Watershed at JPC. Bacterial TMDL TAG Forum. Georgia Conservancy. June 30, 2006. Watkinsville, GA.


Review Publications
Santo Domingo, J.S., Edge, T., Griffith, J., Hansel, J., Harwood, V.J., Jenkins, M., Layton, A., Marirosa, M., Nakatsu, C., Oshiro, R., Sadowsky, M., Shanks, O., Stelma, G., Stewart, J., Stoeckel, D., Wiggins, B., Wilbur, J. 2005. Microbial source tracking guide document. US Environmental Protection Agency Special Publication. EPA/600R-05/064. p. 135.

Jenkins, M., Endale, D.M., Schomberg, H.H., Sharpe, R.R. 2006. Fecal bacteria and sex hormones in soil and runoff from cropped watersheds amended with poultry litter. Science of the Total Environment. 358:164-177.

Lucio-Forster, A., Bowman, D.D., Liotta, J.L., Starke, J.A., Labare, M., Jenkins, M., Butkus, M.A. 2005. Inactivation of ascaris suum eggs by exposure to ultraviolet (uv) irradiation. Water Environment Federation Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC), February 6-9, 2006, Mesa, Arizona. CD-ROM

Jenkins, M., Franzluebbers, A.J., Humayoun, S.B. 2006. Assessing short-term responses of prokaryotic communities in bulk and rhizosphere soils to tall fescue endophyte infection. Plant and Soil. 289:309-320.

Phillips, R.W., Jenkins, M., Kelley, L. 2006. Development of a rapid TaqMan protocol for detection of francisella tularensis in a food matrix [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases, March 19-22, 2006, Atlanta, Georgia. p. 139.

Last Modified: 9/10/2014
Footer Content Back to Top of Page