Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 807–815 | Cite as

Carbon/nitrogen ratio as a major factor for predicting the effects of organic wastes on soil bacterial communities assessed by DNA-based molecular techniques



Background, aim, and scope

Current Australian legislation permits the beneficial application of grease trap waste (GTW) to agricultural soil, viewing it as a beneficial source of organic matter and soil conditioner containing no/low amounts of metals or pathogenic organisms. However, little is known about the influence of GTW on soil bacterial community. A field experiment was established at Menangle in south western Sydney in Australia to quantitatively assess the impacts of different types (GTW CO and GTW CL) and amounts of GTW application on the soil bacterial community and diversity. Furthermore, a municipal solid waste (MSW) compost was simultaneously examined to compare against the other organic wastes. Knowledge about the shifts in microbial community structure and diversity following the applications of organic wastes could help to evaluate the ecological consequences on the soil and thus to develop sound regulatory guidelines for the beneficial reuse of organic wastes in agricultural lands.

Materials and methods

Soil samples were collected from recycled organics plots treated with different types and quantity of organic wastes. The field experimental treatments included control (CK, without application of any organic wastes), low amount of GTW CO (COL), GTW CL (CLL), and MSW (ML), and high amounts of GTW CO (COH), GTW CL (CLH), and MSW compost (MH). Microbial DNA was extracted from soil samples and the 16S rRNA genes were polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-amplified. The PCR products were analyzed by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE), cloning, and sequencing. The bacterial community structures and diversity were assessed using the DGGE profiles and clone libraries constructed from the excised DGGE bands.


DGGE-based analyses showed that application of the GTW CO, regardless of the amount applied, had significant negative effects on soil bacterial genotypic diversity and community structure compared with the control, while the applications of other organic wastes including the GTW CL and MSW had no clear effects. The effects of the rate of organic waste application on soil bacterial community characteristics varied with the types of organic wastes applied. Sequence-based analyses of 126 clones indicated that Proteobacteria (53.2%) was the dominant taxa at the experimental site, followed by Actinobacteria (9.5%), Bacteroidetes (7.9%), Firmicutes (7.9%), Gemmatimonadetes (5.6%), Chloroflexi (2.4%), Acidobacteria (1.6%) and the unclassified group (11.9%). In the COH treatment, Acidobacteria, Bacteroidetes, and Gemmatimonadetes were not detected; the percentages of Firmicutes, Proteobacteria, and Actinobacteria in the COH treatment were significantly different from those in CK. There is a significant positive correlation (r = 0.71, p = 0.002) between the C/N ratio of organic wastes and the bacterial genotypic communities.


Both the type and the amount of GTW applied affected soil bacterial genotypic diversity and community structure. The different effects of various types of organic wastes on soil bacterial characteristics may be predicted by the differences in specific properties of organic wastes such as C/N ratio, as evidenced by the strong and significant positive relationship between the bacterial community distance and the environmental distance of C/N ratio. This also indicates that the C/N ratio of GTW applied can be a major driver for the shift in the soil bacterial community.


Our results revealed that the effects of organic wastes on soil bacterial communities varied with the types of organic wastes, and depending on the rate of application. Application of the GTW CO led to significant shifts in soil bacterial community diversity and structure. The effects of different types of organic wastes on the soil bacterial characteristics can be predicted by the differences of specific properties of organic wastes, such as the C/N ratio. Sequence-based analyses of 126 clones indicated that Proteobacteria was the dominant taxa at the experimental site.

Recommendations and perspectives

Our results have important implications for developing sound regulatory guidelines for the beneficial reuse of organic wastes, indicating that GTW CO and similar organic waste treatments may not be suitable for application in agricultural soils due to its significant negative effect on soil bacterial community.


Bacterial community Bacterial diversity Cloning and sequencing Denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis Organic waste Soil 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yuan Ge
    • 1
    • 2
  • Chengrong Chen
    • 1
  • Zhihong Xu
    • 1
  • Simon M. Eldridge
    • 3
  • Kwong Yin Chan
    • 3
  • Yan He
    • 1
    • 4
  • Ji-Zheng He
    • 2
  1. 1.Centre for Forestry and Horticultural Research and School of Biomolecular and Physical SciencesGriffith UniversityNathanAustralia
  2. 2.Key Laboratory of Urban and Regional Ecology, Research Centre for Eco-Environmental SciencesChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.Centre for Recycled Organics in AgricultureNSW Department of Primary IndustriesRichmondAustralia
  4. 4.College of Environmental and Natural Resource SciencesZhejiang UniversityHangzhouChina

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