Antibiotic use in plant agriculture

Annu Rev Phytopathol. 2002:40:443-65. doi: 10.1146/annurev.phyto.40.120301.093927. Epub 2002 Feb 20.


Antibiotics have been used since the 1950s to control certain bacterial diseases of high-value fruit, vegetable, and ornamental plants. Today, the antibiotics most commonly used on plants are oxytetracycline and streptomycin. In the USA, antibiotics applied to plants account for less than 0.5% of total antibiotic use. Resistance of plant pathogens to oxytetracycline is rare, but the emergence of streptomycin-resistant strains of Erwinia amylovora, Pseudomonas spp., and Xanthomonas campestris has impeded the control of several important diseases. A fraction of streptomycin-resistance genes in plant-associated bacteria are similar to those found in bacteria isolated from humans, animals, and soil, and are associated with transfer-proficient elements. However, the most common vehicles of streptomycin-resistance genes in human and plant pathogens are genetically distinct. Nonetheless, the role of antibiotic use on plants in the antibiotic-resistance crisis in human medicine is the subject of debate.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture / methods*
  • Agriculture / statistics & numerical data
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Bacteria / drug effects
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Crops, Agricultural / drug effects*
  • Crops, Agricultural / microbiology
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial / genetics
  • Fruit / drug effects
  • Fruit / microbiology
  • Gentamicins / pharmacology
  • Mutation
  • Oxolinic Acid / pharmacology
  • Oxytetracycline / pharmacology
  • Plant Diseases / microbiology*
  • Streptomycin / pharmacology
  • Vegetables / drug effects
  • Vegetables / microbiology


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Gentamicins
  • Oxolinic Acid
  • Oxytetracycline
  • Streptomycin