Effect of Bt-Transgenic Cotton on Soil Biological Health


Tarafdar Jagadish C.*, Rathore Indira, Shiva Vandana1 Central Arid Zone Research Institute, Jodhpur, Rajasthan-342 003 (India)  1Navadanya, A-60, Hauz Khas, New Delhi 110 016, India  *email: jctarafdar@yahoo.in; tarafdar@cazri.res.in

Bt cotton are plants that have been genetically modified to express the insecticidal proteins Cry 1 Acfrom subspecies of the bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bt), to control bollworm pest that feed on cotton. There is a persistent environmental concern that transgenic Bt-crops carry genes that have indirect undesirable effect to natural and agroecosystem function. We investigated the effect of Bt-cotton (with Cry 1 Ac gene) on several microbial and biochemical indicators in fields under sub-humid tropical condition. Twenty five fields were selected in the Vidarbha region, India, where Bt-cotton has been growing at least three consecutive years and side by side field of non-transgenic cotton is growing under clay to clay loam soil. Soil from a control (no-crop) treatment was also included from each area to compare the extent of adverse effect of Bt, if any. Samples were analyzed for actinobacteria, fungi and nitrifiers population, biomass carbon (MBC), biomass nitrogen (MBN), biomass phosphorus (MBP) and soil enzyme activities. The result revealed a significant decline in actinobacteria (17%), bacterial (14%) count as well as acid phosphatase (27%), phytase (18%), nitrogenase (23%) and dehydrogenase (12%) activities in Bt cotton compared with non-Bt cotton fields. Fungal and nitrifier counts, and esterase and alkaline phosphatase activities were not affected by the introduction of Bt-cotton in fields. However, significant decline between 8 and 9% in MBC and MBN was noticed.


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