Agroforestry Systems

, Volume 92, Issue 2, pp 511–524 | Cite as

Effect of pesticides on microorganisms involved in litter decomposition in cacao plantation in Ile-Ife, Nigeria

  • Olutope Osewole Afolabi
  • Joseph Ikechukwu Muoghalu


Wide spread use of pesticides by farmers in agro-ecosystems to control pests may cause the disruption of nutrient cycling by adversely affecting the organisms especially microorganisms, namely bacteria and fungi, involved in decomposition processes thus altering normal nutrient cycling pattern in these ecosystems. This study, therefore, identified and determined the dynamics of bacterial and fungal species involved in cacao leaf litter decomposition and the effect of the pesticide, Ridomil Gold 66WP on the species. This was with a view to understanding the effects of pesticides used to control pests and diseases on litter decomposition rate in cacao plantations. Cacao leaf litter decomposition was studied using litterbag method. Freshly fallen leaf litter was thoroughly mixed and divided into two groups, treated and untreated. The treated was sprayed with Ridomil Gold 66WP at the rate of the recommended field rate of 3.3 g/L and air dried. 20 g of treated and untreated litter were weighed, put in separate 15 cm × 15 cm of 1.0 mm mesh size litter bags and randomly placed on the floor of cacao plantations in Ile-Ife, Nigeria. Three litter bags of each group were randomly retrieved from the plantation on monthly intervals for each month and the content of each litterbag was weighed to determine the rate of decomposition of the litter. The litter contents of each group litter were bulked, ground and microbiological analyses carried out to isolate, characterise and identify the species of bacteria and fungi involved in cacao leaf litter decomposition. The rate of decomposition of pesticide treated cacao leaf litter (0.473) was lower than that of untreated litter (0.582). A total of 31 microbial species consisting of 13 bacterial species and 18 fungal species were isolated from decomposing cacao leaf litter during the sampling period. More fungal species (16) than bacterial species (9) were involved in untreated cacao leaf litter decomposition. Species of the genera Klebsiella, Pseudomonas, Aspergillus, Penicillium and Rhizopus were the most common microorganisms involved in decomposition of cacao leaf litter. Ridomil Gold 66WP did not have significant effect on the total heterotrophic bacterial and fungal counts throughout the sampling period though their counts in treated litter were lower than in untreated litter. There were also no significant monthly variations in both total bacterial and fungal counts. It was concluded that the pesticide, Ridomil Gold 66WP, though had adverse effect on the rate of decomposition of cacao leaf litter, it did not have any adverse effect on the species of bacteria and fungi involved in decomposition of cacao leaf litter.


Litter decomposition Pesticide Microorganisms Cacao plantation 


  1. Aikpokpodion PE, Lajide L, Aiyesanmi AF (2010) Heavy metals contamination in fungicide treated cacao plantation in Cross River State, Nigeria. Am Eurasian J Agric Environ Sci 8(3):268–274Google Scholar
  2. Akpor OB, Okoh AI, Babalola GO (2006) Culturable microbial population dynamics during decomposition of Theobroma cacao leaf litters in a tropical soil setting. J Biol Sci 6:768–774CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Asogwa EU, Dongo LN (2009) Problems associated with pesticide usage and application in Nigerian cacao production: a review. Afr J Agric Res 4:675–683Google Scholar
  4. Ayansina ADV, Oso BA (2006) Effect of two commonly used herbicides on soil microflora at two different concentrations. Afr J Biotechnol 5:129–132Google Scholar
  5. Bengtson P, Falengren-Grerup U, Bengtsson G (2006) Spatial distribution of plants and gross N transformation rates in a forest soil. J Ecol 94:754–764CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bharat R, Srivastava AK (1983) Microbial decomposition of leaf litter as influenced by pesticides. Plant Soil 74:265–272CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bhuyan S, Sahu SK, Adhya TK, Sethunathan N (1992) Accelerated aerobic degradation of Y-hexachlorocyclohexane in suspension of flooded and nonflooded soil spretreated with hexachlorocyclohexane. Biol Fertil Soils 12:279–284CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Blair JM, Crossley DA Jr, Callaham LA (1992) Effects of litter quality and arthropods on N-dynamics and retention of exogenous N-15 in decomposing litter. Biol Fertil Soils 12:241–252CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bocock KL, Gilbert DJN (1957) The disappearance of leaf litter under different woodland conditions. Plant Soil 9:179–185CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bohan GC, Richard DB (2001) How changes in soil fauna diversity and composition within a trophic group influence decomposition processes. Soil Biol Biochem 33:2073–2081CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Chen SK, Edwards CA, Subler S (2001) Effects of the fungicides benomyl, captanand chlorothalonil on soil microbial activity and nitrogen dynamics in laboratory incubations. Soil Biol Biochem 33:1971–1980CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cycon M, Kacaynska A (2004) Effect of selected pesticides on soil microbial activity in nitrogen and carbon transformation. Pesticides 1:113–120Google Scholar
  13. Cycon M (2006) Ecotoxicological evaluation of pesticides on the basis of microbial analysis. Ph.D. Thesis, Medical University of SilesiaGoogle Scholar
  14. Cycon M, Piotrowska-Seget Z (2007) Effect of the selected pesticides on soil microflora involved in organic matter and nitrogen transformation: pot experiment. Pol J Ecol 55:207–220Google Scholar
  15. Das MK, Adhikay SP (1996) Toxicity of three pesticides to several rice-field cynobacteria. Trop Agric 73:1641–1649Google Scholar
  16. Das AC, Mukherjee D (2000) Soil application of insecticides influences microorganisms and plant nutrients. Appl Soil Ecol 14:55–62CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. De Swardt AMJ (1953) The geology of the country around Ilesha., Bulletin No. 23Geological Survey of Nigeria, NigeriaGoogle Scholar
  18. De-Lorenzo ME, Scott GI, Ross PE (2001) Toxicity of pesticides to aquatic microorganisms: a review. Environ Toxicol Chem 20:84–98CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Duncan ER (1974) weather information from the University of Ife. University of Ife Press, Ile-IfeGoogle Scholar
  20. Dvornikova TP, Granatskaya TA, Finkelshtein ZI, Tolochkina SA, Pestereva NS, Neshinskii AA (1988) Behaviour of Ridomil in soil and its effect on soil microflora. Agrokhimiya 11:116–118Google Scholar
  21. Eijsackers H, Van de Bund CF (1980) Effects on soil fauna. In: Hance RJ (ed) Interactions between herbicides and the soil. Academic Press, London, pp 255–305Google Scholar
  22. FAO/UNESCO.: World soil classification. In: Legend to Soil Map of the world. Vol. 1, UNESCO, Paris (1974)Google Scholar
  23. Finkelstein ZI, Golovleva LA (1988) Effects of regular application of pesticides on nitrogen bacteria. Zentrablatt fur Mikrobiol 143:453–456Google Scholar
  24. Fraser DG, Doran JW, Sahs W (1988) Soil microbial population and activities under conventional and organic management. J Environ Qual 17:585–590CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Fuller WH (1974) Desert soils. In: Brown GW (ed) Desert biology: special topics on the physical and biological aspects of arid regions. Academic Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  26. Giller KE, Beare MH, Lavelle P, Izac AMN, Swift MJ (1997) Agricultural intensification, soil biodiversity and agroecosystem function. Appl Soil Ecol 6:3–16CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. González G, Seastedt TR (2000) Comparison of the abundance and composition of litter fauna in tropical and subalpine forests. Pedobiologia 44:545–555CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Gonzalez G, Ley RE, Schmidt SK, Zou X, Seastedt TR (2001) Soil ecological interactions: comparisons between tropical and subalpine forests. Oecologia 128:549–556CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Gottschalk MR, Shure DJ (1979) Herbicide effects on leaf litter decomposition processes in an oak-hickory forest. Ecology 60:143–151CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Groffman PM, Bohlen PJ, Fisk MC, Fahey TJ (2004) Exotic earthworm invasion and microbial biomass in temperate forest soils. Ecosystems 7:45–54CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hall JB (1969) The vegetation of Ile-Ife., Bulletin IUniversity of Ife Herbarium, Ile-IfeGoogle Scholar
  32. Hart MR, Brookes PC (1996) Soil microbial biomass and mineralization of soil organic matter after 19 years of cumulative field applications of pesticides. Soil Biol Biochem 28:1641–1649CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Hou PL, Zou X, Huang C, Chien H (2005) Plant litter decomposition influenced by soil animals and disturbance in a subtropical rainforest of Taiwan. Pedobiologia 49:539–547CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Howard DM, Howard PJA (1980) Effect of species, source of litter, type of soil, and climate on litter decomposition: microbial decomposition of tree and shrub leaf litter 3. Oikos 34:115–124CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Iloba BN, Ekrakene T (2008) Soil microarthropods recovery rates from 0–5 cm depth within 5 months period following endosulfan (organochlorine pesticide) treatment in designated plots in Benin City, Nigeria. Acad J Entomol 1:36–44Google Scholar
  36. Isaac SR, Nair MA (2006) Litter dynamics of six multipurpose trees in a home garden in southern Kerala, India. Agrofor Syst 67:203–213CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Jilani S, Khan MA (2004) Isolation, characterization and growth response of pesticides degrading bacteria. J Biol Sci 4:15–20CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Khalil AB (2003) Isolation and characterization of 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid degrading organisms from soil in Jordan valley. Biotechnology 2:73–85CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Kieft TL (1991) Soil microbiology in reclamation of arid and semiarid lands. In: Skujins J (ed) Semiarid lands and desert soils. Soil resources and reclamation. Marcel Dekker Inc, New York, pp 209–256Google Scholar
  40. Koledoye, A.O.: Effect of pesticide on the decomposition and nutrient input of leaf litter in cacao (Theobroma cacao Linn.) plantation. M.Sc. Thesis, Obafemi Awolowo University (2012), Ile-IfeGoogle Scholar
  41. Kreutzwelser DP, Thompson DG, Scarr TA (2009) Imidacloprid in leaves from systemically treated trees may inhibit litter breakdown by non-target invertebrate. Ecotoxicol Environ Saf 72:1053–1057CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Krivtsov V, Liddell K, Bezginova T, Salmond R, Staines HJ, Watling R, Garside A, Thomson JA, Griffiths BS, Brendler A (2005) Forest litter bacteria: relationships with fungi microfauna, and litter composition over a winter-spring period. Pol J Ecol 53:383–394Google Scholar
  43. Kuehn KA, Gessner MO, Wetzeri RG, Suberkropp K (1999) Decomposition and CO2 evolution from standing litter of emergent macrophyte, Erianteus giganteus. Microb Ecol 38:50–57CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. Liess M, Brown C, Dohmen P, Duquesne S, Heimbach F, Kreuger J (2005) Effects of pesticides in the field–EPIF, vol 136. SETAC Press, BrusselsGoogle Scholar
  45. Lussenhop J (1992) Mechanisms of microarthropod-microbial interaction in soil. Adv Ecol Res 23:1–33CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Maclean DA, Wein RW (1978) Weight loss and nutrient changes in decomposing forest floor materials in New Brunswick forest stands. Can J Bot 56:2730–2749CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Mandia, L., Oukia, I., Oeroevia, S. Soil fungi as indicators of pesticide soil pollution. Paper presented at the 1st Scientific Meeting of Mycology, Mycotoxicology and Mycoses, Novi Sad, 20–22 April 2005Google Scholar
  48. Margni M, Rossier D, Crettaz P, Jolliet O (2002) Life cycle impact assessment of pesticides on human health and ecosystems. Agric Ecosyst Environ 93:379–392CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Martinez-Toledo MY, Salmeron Y, Rodelas B, Pozo C, Gonzalez-Lopez J (1998) Effects of the fungicide Captan on some functional groups of soil microflora. Appl Soil Ecol 7:245–255CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Monkiedje A, Spiteller M (2005) Degradation of metalaxyl and mefenoxam and effects on the microbiological properties of tropical and temperate soils. Int J Environ Res Pub Health 2:272–285CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Munier-Lamy O, Borde C (2000) Effect of a triazole fungicide on cellulose decomposition by the soil microfloral. Chemosphere 41:1029–1035CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. Muoghalu JI, Odiwe AI (2011) Litter production and decomposition in cacao (Theobroma cacao) and kolanut (Cola nitida) plantations. Ecotropica 17:79–90Google Scholar
  53. Nazim K, Ahmed M, Shakat SS, Khan MU (2013) Seasonal variation of litter accumulation and putrefaction with reference to decomposers in a mangrove forest of Karachi, Pakistan. Turk J Bot 37(4):735–743Google Scholar
  54. Ndubuaku TCN, Asogwa EU (2006) Strategies for the control of pests and diseases for sustainable cocoa production in Nigeria. Afr Sci 7:202–216Google Scholar
  55. Olson JS (1963) Energy storage and the balance of producer and decomposers in ecological systems. Ecology 44:322–331CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Onochie, C.F.A. The Nigerian rainforest ecosystem: an overview. In; D.U.U. Okali (ed.) The Nigerian rainforest ecosystem. Proceedings of the M.A.N and Biosphere on the Nigeria rainforest. University of Ibadan Conference Centre, Nigeria. pp 1–3. National MAB Committee, Ibadan, Nigeria (1979)Google Scholar
  57. Pimentel D (1995) Amounts of pesticides reaching target pest: environmental impacts and ethics. J Agric Environ Eth 8:17–29CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Przybulewska K, Sienicka K (2008) Decomposition of atrazine by microorganisms isolated from long-term herbicide experiment soil. Ecol Chem Eng 15:491–499Google Scholar
  59. Qiu S, McComb AJ, Bell RW, Davis JA (2005) Response of soil microbial activity to temperature, moisture, and litter leaching on a wetland transect during seasonal refilling. Wetl Ecol Manag 13:43–54CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Rai B, Srivastava AK (1983) Microbial decomposition of leaf litter as influenced by pesticides. Plant Soil 74:265–272CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Reddy MV (1995) Litter arthropods. In: Reddy MV (ed) Soil organisms and litter decomposition in the tropics. Westview Press, Boulder, pp 133–139Google Scholar
  62. Reddy MV, Venkataiah B (1989) Influence of microarthropod abundance and climatic factors on weight loss and mineral nutrient content of Eucalyptus leaf litter during decomposition. Biol Fertil Soils 8:319–324CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Romani AM, Fischer H, Mille-Lindblom C, Tranvik LJ (2006) Interactions of bacteria and fungi on decomposing litter: differential extracellular enzyme activities. Ecology 87:2559–2569CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  64. Ruan HH, Li YQ, Zou XM (2005) Soil communities and plant litter decomposition as influenced by forest debris: variation across tropical riparian and upland sites. Pedobiologia 49:529–538CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Santos PF, Whitford WG (1981) The effects of microarthropods on litter decomposition in a Chihuahuan desert ecosystem. Ecology 62:654–663CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Shafiani S, Malik A (2003) Tolerance of pesticides and antibiotic resistance in bacteria isolated from wastewater-irrigated soil. World J Microbiol Biotechnol 19:897–901CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Simon-Sylvestre G, Fournier JC (1979) Effects of pesticides on soil microflora. Adv Agron 31:1–92Google Scholar
  68. Singh VN, Pasad CR (1991) Effect of phorate and gamma BHC on mineralization of nitrogen in soil. J Indian Soc Soil Sci 39:183–185Google Scholar
  69. Skujins J (1984) Microbial ecology of desert soils. Adv Microb Ecol 7:49–92Google Scholar
  70. Slater JH, Lovatt D (1984) Biodegradation and the significance of microbial communities. In: Gibson DT (ed) Microbial degradation of organic compounds. Marcel Dekker, New York, pp 439–485Google Scholar
  71. Smith MD, Hartnett DC, Ric CW (2000) Effect of long-term application on microbial properties in tall grass prairie soil. Soil Biol Biochem 32:935–946CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Smyth AJ, Montgomery RF (1962) The soils and land use of central western Nigeria. The Government Printer, IbadanGoogle Scholar
  73. Swift MJ, Heal OW, Anderson JM (1979) Decomposition in Terestrial Ecosystems. Blackwell Scientific Publications, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  74. Tijani AA, Sofoluwe NA (2012) Factors determining the extent of pesticide use in Nigerian farms. J Agric Econ Dev 1:1–9Google Scholar
  75. USDA (1975) Soil taxonomy. Agriculture handbook. US Department of Agriculture, Washington DC, p 436Google Scholar
  76. Visser S (1985) Role of the soil invertebrates in determining the composition of soil microbial communities. In: Fitter AH, Atkinson D (eds) Ecological interaction in soil. Blackwell, Oxford, pp 297–317Google Scholar
  77. Walksman SA (1952) Soil microbiology. Willey, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  78. Wang S, Ruan H, Wang B (2009) Effect of soil microarthropods on plant litter decomposition across an elevation gradient in the Wuyi Mountains. Soil Biol Biochem 41:891–897CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Ward DJ, Wilson RE (1973) Pesticide effects on decomposition and recycling of Avena litter in a monoculture ecosystem. Am Midl Nat 90:266–276CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Wardle DA, Parkinson D (1990) Effects of three herbicides on soil microbial biomass and activity. Plant Soil 122:21–28CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Weary GC, Merriam HG (1978) Litter decomposition in a red maple woodlot under natural conditions and under insecticide treatment. Ecology 59:180–184CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. White F (1983) The vegetation of Africa—a descriptive memoir to accompany the UNESCO/AETFAT UNSO vegetation map of Africa. UNESCO, Paris, p 356Google Scholar
  83. Wilding LP, Smeck NE, Hall GF (1983) Pedogenesis and soil taxonomy I. Concepts and interactions II. The soil orders. Elsevier, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  84. Wilson RC (1922) The Geology of the Western Railway Section 1., Bulletin No. 2.Geological Survey of Nigeria, NigeriaGoogle Scholar
  85. Witkamp M (1960) Seasonal fluctuations of the fungus flora in mull and mor of an oak forest—Meded. ITBON (Institut voor Toegepost Biologisch Onderzoek in de Natur) 46:1–51Google Scholar
  86. Yadav SK (2010) Pesticide applications—threat to ecosystems. J Hum Ecol 32:37–45CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Olutope Osewole Afolabi
    • 1
  • Joseph Ikechukwu Muoghalu
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of Ecology and Environmental StudiesObafemi Awolowo UniversityIle-IfeNigeria
  2. 2.Department of BotanyObafemi Awolowo UniversityIle-IfeNigeria

Personalised recommendations