Manure microbial communities and resistance profiles reconfigure after transition to manure pits and differ from those in fertilized field soil

Kimberley V. Sukhum, Rhiannon C. Vargas, Manish Boolchandani, Alaric W. D’souza, Sanket Patel, Akhil Kesaraju, Gretchen Walljasper, Harshad Hegde, Zhan Ye, Robert K. Valenzuela, Paul Gunderson, Casper Bendixsen, Gautam Dantas, Sanjay K. Shukla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


In agricultural settings, microbes and antimicrobial resistance genes (ARGs) have the potential to be transferred across diverse environments and ecosystems. The consequences of these microbial transfers are unclear and understudied. On dairy farms, the storage of cow manure in manure pits and subsequent application to field soil as a fertilizer may facilitate the spread of the mammalian gut microbiome and its associated ARGs to the environment. To determine the extent of both taxonomic and resistance similarity during these transitions, we collected fresh manure, manure from pits, and field soil across 15 different dairy farms for three consecutive seasons. We used a combination of shotgun metagenomic sequencing and functional metagenomics to quantitatively interrogate taxonomic and ARG compositional variation on farms. We found that as the microbiome transitions from fresh dairy cow manure to manure pits, microbial taxonomic compositions and resistance profiles experience distinct restructuring, including decreases in alpha diversity and shifts in specific ARG abundances that potentially correspond to fresh manure going from a gut-structured community to an environment-structured community. Further, we did not find evidence of shared microbial community or a transfer of ARGs between manure and field soil microbiomes. Our results suggest that fresh manure experiences a compositional change in manure pits during storage and that the storage of manure in manure pits does not result in a depletion of ARGs. We did not find evidence of taxonomic or ARG restructuring of soil microbiota with the application of manure to field soils, as soil communities remained resilient to manureinduced perturbation. IMPORTANCE The addition of dairy cow manure—stored in manure pits—to field soil has the potential to introduce not only organic nutrients but also mammalian microbial communities and antimicrobial resistance genes (ARGs) to soil communities. Using shotgun sequencing paired with functional metagenomics, we showed that microbial community composition changed between fresh manure and manure pit samples with a decrease in gut-associated pathobionts, while ARG abundance and diversity remained high. However, field soil communities were distinct from those in manure in both microbial taxonomic and ARG composition. These results broaden our understanding of the transfer of microbial communities in agricultural settings and suggest that field soil microbial communities are resilient against the deposition of ARGs or microbial communities from manure.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere00798-21
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2021


  • Agriculture
  • Antimicrobial resistance
  • Dairy farm
  • Manure
  • Microbiome


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