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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract -

Effect of Cry3Bb Transgenic Corn and Tefluthrin on the Soil Microbial Community


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 33 No. 3, p. 837-843
    Received: May 7, 2003

    * Corresponding author(s): mhd6@cornell.edu
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  1. M. H. Devare *,
  2. C. M. Jones and
  3. J. E. Thies
  1. Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853


Transgenic Bt corn expressing the Cry3Bb insecticidal protein active against corn rootworm (CRW) (Diabrotica spp.; Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) was released for commercial use in 2003 and is expected to be widely adopted. Yet, the direct and indirect risks to soil microorganisms of growing this CRW-resistant Bt corn versus applying insecticides to control the rootworm have not been assessed under field conditions. The effects of CRW Bt corn and the insecticide tefluthrin [2,3,5,6-tetrafluoro-4-methylbenzyl (Z)-(1RS)-cis-3-(2-chloro-3,3,3-trifluoroprop-1-enyl)-2,2-dimethylcyclopropanecarboxylate] on soil microbial biomass, activity (N mineralization potential, short-term nitrification rate, and soil respiration), and bacterial community structure as determined by terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP) analysis were assessed over two seasons in a field experiment. Bt corn had no deleterious effects on microbial activity or bacterial community measures compared with the non-transgenic isoline. The T-RFLP analysis indicated that amplifiable bacterial species composition and relative abundance differed substantially between years, but did not differ between rhizosphere and bulk soils. The application of tefluthrin also had no effect on any microbial measure except decreased soil respiration observed in tefluthrin-treated plots compared with Bt and non-transgenic isoline (NoBt) plots in 2002. Our results indicate that the release of CRW Bt corn poses little threat to the ecology of the soil microbial community based on parameters measured in this study.

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