Earlier studies by MU scientists have shown that grass buffers in croplands can filter herbicides in surface runoff by physically trapping sediment and nurturing microorganisms that break down herbicides.
Goyne and colleagues—including assistant professor of forestry Chung-Ho Lin, professor of soil science Steven Anderson, graduate student Bei Chu, and two USDA soil scientists based at MU, Robert Lerch and Robert Kremer—have been conducting laboratory and field tests to see if buffers could play a similar role in filtering antibiotics.
In one study, the researchers collected soil samples from both croplands and grass and agroforestry buffers at three MU research farms in Missouri—the Horticulture and Agroforestry Research Center in New Franklin, Southwest Center in Mount Vernon, and the Greenley Research Center in Novelty. They exposed the samples to two common veterinary antibiotics, sulfadimethoxine and oxytetracycline.
Comparisons of soil from croplands and buffers revealed that soils from several types of plant buffers were effective at reducing concentrations of the antibiotics.
A report on the research appeared recently in the journal Agroforestry Systems.
Related projects include a study at MU's Bradford Farm near Columbia that looks at the effectiveness of three different buffer designs in reducing antibiotics in surface runoff.
The overall goal is to determine which combinations of plant species and soil types are most effective at filtering and degrading antibiotics, Goyne said.