Skip to main content
ARS Home » Plains Area » Lincoln, Nebraska » Agroecosystem Management Research » Research » Research Project #431160

Research Project: Assessing and Managing Antibiotic Resistance, Nutrients, and Pathogens In Animal-Impacted Agroecosystems

Location: Agroecosystem Management Research

Project Number: 3042-12630-003-00-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Jul 13, 2016
End Date: Jul 12, 2021

Objective 1: Measure manure pathogens, antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and antibiotic resistance genes (ARB/G) in animal production systems and manure-impacted environments and mitigate their deleterious impacts. Subobjective 1A. Develop and/or validate methods to detect and quantify antibiotic resistant bacteria and genes ARB/G in beef and swine production areas, with a focus on resistance classes that are ecologically relevant to particular agricultural production systems, microbiologically relevant based on carriage of likely pathogens, and clinically relevant based on kinds of drugs used to treat infections in food animals and humans. Subobjective 1B. Measure survival of microbes and persistence of genes in manure-impacted environments. Objective 2: Improve manure land application practices to enhance crop productivity while reducing losses of reactive nitrogen and phosphorus. Subobjective 2A. Utilize rainfall simulation tests to evaluate the potential for reactive manure nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) to be transported in runoff from land application areas. Subobjective 2B. Utilize rainfall simulation tests to evaluate the potential for pathogens, fecal indicators, and antibiotic resistance (AR) to be transported in runoff from land application areas. Subobjective 2C. Determine if a reactive subsurface barrier can limit nitrate movement out of surface agricultural soils and into shallow aquifers. Objective 3: Assess the impact and fate of manure-associated pharmaceuticals in agroecosystems. Subobjective 3A. Evaluate how increasing concentrations of common livestock antimicrobials (monensin, lincomycin, and sulfamethazine) effect nitrification, denitrification, and decomposition in crop and pasture soils that have received beef cattle feedlot runoff or manure with crop, pasture, and stream sediments with no history of manure/runoff.

Agronomic use of animal manure to build soil fertility and health has been an economical and sustainable practice for centuries, but it is not without challenges. Manure can be a source of human food pathogens and environmental contaminants including excess nutrients, pathogens, antibiotics, and antibiotic resistant bacteria (ARB). The goal of this project is to address substantial knowledge gaps regarding the movement and fate of the chemical and biological components of manure. In a series of collaborative studies, robust, cross-validated methods to measure antibiotic resistance (Objective 1) will be developed through a multi-location partnership and will assess potential transport issues after manure application and in manure-impacted environments across the nation. Field and laboratory experiments will evaluate setback factors affecting manure nutrient, pathogen, antibiotic, and ARB in runoff and nitrate leaching past the root zone into shallow ground water (Objective 2 & 3). Soil’s capacity to help mitigate specific manure pathogens, including porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, will be explored in laboratory and field studies in addition to determining specific antibiotic thresholds where soil microbial processes are affected to better understand environmental risks for manure application (Objectives 2 & 3). Information from these studies directly contributes to multiple problem areas/components in National Programs 212 and 108. The research objectives within this study plan will provide important information concerning the fate and transport of manure constituents for producers (nutrient loss, safe manure use for crop production), the public (pathogens, antibiotics and ARB), and other government agencies (nutrients and pathogens impacting water quality).