Skip to Main Content
U.S. Forest Service
Caring for the land and serving people

United States Department of Agriculture

Home > Search > Publication Information

  1. Share via EmailShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Twitter
    Dislike this pubLike this pub
    Author(s): Matt D. Busse; Alice W. Ratcliff; Carol J. Stestak; Robert F. Powers
    Date: 2001
    Source: Soil Biology & Biochemistry, Vol. 33: 1777-1789
    Publication Series: Miscellaneous Publication
    PDF: Download Publication  (230 KB)


    We assessed the direct and indirect effect of the herbicide glyphosate on soil microbial communities from soil bioassays at glyphosate concentrations up to 100-fold greater than expected following a single field application. Indirect effects on microbial biomass, respiration, and metabolic diversity (Biolog and catabolic response profile) were compared seasonally after 9-13 years of vegetation control using repeated glyphosate applications in a replicated field study. Three pine plantations were selected to provide a range of soil characteristics associated with glyphosate binding (clay, Fe and Al oxide content) and site growing potential from the lowest to the highest in northern California. Glyphosate was toxic to bacteria and fungi from each plantation when grown in soil-free media. Culturable populations were reduced, as was the growth rate and metabolic diversity of surviving bacteria, by increasing concentrations of glyphosate. This toxicity was not expressed when glyphosate was added directly to soil, however. Microbial respiration was unchanged at expected field concentrations (5-50 μg g-1), regardless of soil, and was stimulated by concentrations up to 100-fold greater. Increased microbial activity resulted from utilization of glyphosate as an available carbon substrate. Estimated N and P inputs from glyphosate were inconsequential to microbial activity. Long-term, repeated applications of glyphosate had minimal affect on seasonal microbial characteristics despite substantial changes in vegetation composition and growth. Instead, variation in microbial characteristics was a function of time of year and site quality. Community size, activity, and metabolic diversity generally were greatest in the spring and increased as site quality improved, regardless of herbicide treatment. Our findings suggest that artificial media assays are of limited relevance in predicting glyphosate toxicity to soil organisms and that field rate applications of glyphosate should have little or no affect on soil microbial communities in ponderosa pine plantations.

    Publication Notes

    • You may send email to to request a hard copy of this publication.
    • (Please specify exactly which publication you are requesting and your mailing address.)
    • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.


    Busse, Matt D.; Ratcliff, Alice W.; Stestak, Carol J.; Powers, Robert F. 2001. Glyphosate toxicity and the effects of long-term vegetation control on soil microbial communities. Soil Biology & Biochemistry, Vol. 33: 1777-1789


    ponderosa pine, roundup, microbial biomass, substrate-induced respiration, metabolic diversity

    Related Search

    XML: View XML
Show More
Show Fewer
Jump to Top of Page