Soil microbial communities in diverse agroecosystems exposed to the herbicide glyphosate

Ryan M. Kepler, Dietrich J. Epp Schmidt, Stephanie A. Yarwood, Michel A. Cavigelli, Krishna N. Reddy, Stephen O. Duke, Carl A. Bradley, Martin M. Williams, Jude E. Maula

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Despite glyphosate's wide use for weed control in agriculture, questions remain about the herbicide's effect on soil microbial communities. The existing scientific literature contains conflicting results, from no observable effect of glyphosate to the enrichment of agricultural pathogens such as Fusarium spp. We conducted a comprehensive field-based study to compare the microbial communities on the roots of plants that received a foliar application of glyphosate to adjacent plants that did not. The 2-year study was conducted in Beltsville, MD, and Stoneville, MS, with corn and soybean crops grown in a variety of organic and conventional farming systems. By sequencing environmental metabarcode amplicons, the prokaryotic and fungal communities were described, along with chemical and physical properties of the soil. Sections of corn and soybean roots were plated to screen for the presence of plant pathogens. Geography, farming system, and season were significant factors determining the composition of fungal and prokaryotic communities. Plots treated with glyphosate did not differ from untreated plots in overall microbial community composition after controlling for other factors. We did not detect an effect of glyphosate treatment on the relative abundance of organisms such as Fusarium spp.

Original languageEnglish
Article number01744
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 American Society for Microbiology.


  • Agriculture
  • Agroecology
  • Corn
  • Disease ecology
  • Glyphosate
  • Metabarcode
  • Microbiome
  • Organic
  • Soybean

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Food Science
  • Ecology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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