Pesticide and nitrate contamination of soil and groundwater from agriculture is an environmental and public health concern worldwide. Simazine, 6-chloro-N2,N4-diethyl-1,3,5-triazine-2,4-diamine, is a triazine herbicide used in agriculture for selective weed control with several types of crops and it is frequently applied to soils receiving N-fertilizers. Degradation experiments were performed in the laboratory to assess whether the biodegradation of simazine in soil may be influenced by the presence of urea. Simazine degradation rates under different experimental conditions (presence/absence of urea, microbiologically active/sterilized soil) were assessed together with the formation, degradation and transformation of its main metabolites in soil. Simazine degradation was affected by the presence of urea, in terms both of a smaller half-life (t(1/2)) and of a higher amount of desethyl-simazine formed. The soil bacterial community was also studied. Microbial abundances were determined by epifluorescence direct counting. Moreover in situ hybridization with rRNA-targeted fluorescent oligonucleotide probes was used to analyze the bacterial community structure. Fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) was used to detect specific groups of bacteria such as the alpha,beta,gamma-subdivisions of Proteobacteria, Gram-positive bacteria with a high G + C DNA content, Planctomycetes, Betaproteobacterial ammonia-oxidizing bacteria and nitrifying bacteria. The presence of the herbicide and/or urea affected the bacterial community structure, showing that FISH is a valuable tool for determining the response of bacterial populations to different environmental conditions.
Copyright 2005 Society of Chemical Industry