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Ecological guild and enzyme activities of rhizosphere soil microbial communities associated with Bt-maize cultivation under field conditions in North West Province of South Africa.


Insecticidal proteins expressed by genetically modified Bt maize may alter the enzymatic and microbial communities associated with rhizosphere soil. This study investigated the structure and enzymatic activity of rhizosphere soil microbial communities associated with field grown Bt and non-Bt maize. Rhizosphere soil samples were collected from Bt and non-Bt fields under dryland and irrigated conditions. Samples were subjected to chemical tests, enzyme analyses, and next generation sequencing. Results showed that nitrate and phosphorus concentrations were significantly higher in non-Bt maize dryland soils, while organic carbon was significantly higher in non-Bt maize irrigated field soil. Acid phosphatase and β-glucosidase activities were significantly reduced in soils under Bt maize cultivation. The species diversity differed between fields and Bt and non-Bt maize soils. Results revealed that Actinobacteria, Proteobacteria, and Acidobacteria were the dominant phyla present in these soils. Redundancy analyses indicated that some chemical properties and enzyme activities could explain differences in bacterial community structures. Variances existed in microbial community structures between Bt and non-Bt maize fields. There were also differences between the chemical and biochemical properties of rhizosphere soils under Bt and non-Bt maize cultivation. These differences could be related to agricultural practices and cultivar type.