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Does a drop in the bucket make a splash? Assessing the impact of antibiotic use on plants

McManus, Patricia S
Current Opinion in Microbiology 2014 v.19 pp. 76-82
Erwinia amylovora, animals, antibiotic resistance genes, apples, bacterial communities, community structure, orchards, pears, streptomycin, trees
Antibiotics are applied to plants to prevent bacterial diseases, although the diversity of antibiotics and total amounts used are dwarfed by antibiotic use in animal agriculture. Nevertheless, the release of antibiotics into the open environment during crop treatment draws scrutiny for its potential impact on the global pool of resistance genes. The main use of antibiotics on plants is application of streptomycin to prevent fire blight, a serious disease of apple and pear trees. A series of recent studies identified and quantified antibiotic resistance genes and profiled bacterial communities in apple orchard plots that were or were not sprayed with streptomycin. While the specific objectives and methods varied, the results of these studies suggest that streptomycin application for fire blight control does not influence bacterial community structure or increase the abundance of resistance genes in orchards.