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Decay of Fecal Indicator Bacterial Populations and Bovine-Associated Source-Tracking Markers in Freshly Deposited Cow Pats
Oladeinde, A., T. Bohrmann, Kelvin Wong, Tom Purucker, K. Bradshaw, R. Brown, B. Snyder, AND M. Molina. Decay of Fecal Indicator Bacterial Populations and Bovine-Associated Source-Tracking Markers in Freshly Deposited Cow Pats. APPLIED AND ENVIRONMENTAL MICROBIOLOGY. American Society for Microbiology, Washington, DC, 80(1):110-118, (2014).
Article published in ASM's Applied Environmental Microbiology
Understanding the survival of fecal indicator bacteria (FIB) and microbial source-tracking (MST) markers is critical to developing pathogen fate and transport models. Although pathogen survival in water microcosms and manure-amended soils is well documented, little is known about their survival in intact cow pats deposited on pastures. We conducted a study to determine decay rates of fecal indicator bacteria (Escherichia coli and enterococci) and bovine-associated MST markers (CowM3, Rum-2-bac, and GenBac) in 18 freshly deposited cattle feces from three farms in northern Georgia. Samples were randomly assigned to shaded or unshaded treatment in order to determine the effects of sunlight, moisture, and temperature on decay rates. A general linear model (GLM) framework was used to determine decay rates. Shading significantly decreased the decay rate of the E. coli population (P < 0.0001), with a rate of −0.176 day−1 for the shaded treatment and −0.297 day−1 for the unshaded treatment. Shading had no significant effect on decay rates of enterococci, CowM3, Rum-2-bac, and GenBac (P > 0.05). In addition, E. coli populations showed a significant growth rate (0.881 day−1) in the unshaded samples during the first 5 days after deposition. UV-B was the most important parameter explaining the decay rate of E. coli populations. A comparison of the decay behaviors among all markers indicated that enterococcus concentrations exhibit a better correlation with the MST markers than E. coli concentrations. Our results indicate that bovine-associated MST markers can survive in cow pats for at least 1 month after excretion, and although their decay dynamic differs from the decay dynamic of E. coli populations, they seem to be reliable markers to use in combination with enterococci to monitor fecal pollution from pasture lands.