Dissipation of sulfamethazine and tetracycline in the root zone of grass and tree species

J Environ Qual. 2010 Jul-Aug;39(4):1269-78. doi: 10.2134/jeq2009.0346.


The detection of veterinary antibiotics (VAs) in drinking water resources resulting from manure disposal operations has raised public health concerns. Previous studies have demonstrated the benefits of using multispecies vegetated buffer strips (VBS) to reduce agrichemical transport from agroecosystems. However, VA fate and subsequent effects of VAs on microbial activities in the root zone ofVBS have not been well documented. A growth chamber study was conducted to investigate dissipation of two commonly administered VAs, sulfamethazine (SMZ) and tetracycline (TC), and the relationship between VA dissipation and soil enzyme activities in the root zone of selected plant species. Switchgrass, eastern gammagrass, orchardgrass, and a hybrid poplar tree were grown in pots containing a Mexico silt loam/sand mixture for 3 mo, followed by plant biomass removal and collection of root zone soil. Radiolabeled (3H) SMZ or TC was applied to the soils and samples were incubated in the dark for 5 wk. Among the plant species studied, hybrid poplar showed enhanced capability for promoting SMZ dissipation. The half-lives of SMZ in soil planted to the poplar tree were significantly reduced by the enhanced enzymatic activity. Comparison of soil enzymatic activities between the antibiotic treatments revealed that fluorescein diacetate hydrolytic and glucosaminidase enzyme activities were significantly lower in TC-treated soils than in SMZ-treated soils. The beta-glucosidase activities were similar between the two VA treatments. Correlation analyses showed that the half-life of SMZ in the soil was negatively correlated with enzymatic activity. Enhanced SMZ dissipation in soil planted to hybrid poplar suggests that incorporation of this plant species in VBS may mitigate deleterious effects of SMZ in the environment.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / chemistry
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / metabolism
  • Bacteria / enzymology
  • Biodegradation, Environmental
  • Manure / analysis
  • Molecular Structure
  • Plant Roots / metabolism*
  • Poaceae / metabolism*
  • Populus / metabolism*
  • Refuse Disposal
  • Soil Pollutants / chemistry
  • Soil Pollutants / metabolism
  • Sulfamethazine / chemistry
  • Sulfamethazine / metabolism*
  • Tetracycline / chemistry
  • Tetracycline / metabolism*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Manure
  • Soil Pollutants
  • Sulfamethazine
  • Tetracycline