Persistence of toxins and cells of Bacillus thuringiensis subsp. kurstaki introduced in sprays to Sardinia soils

C. Vettori, D. Paffetti, D. Saxena, G. Stotzky, R. Giannini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sprays of commercial insecticidal preparations of the bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis subsp. kurstaki (BtK), usually a mixture of cells, spores and parasporal crystals, have been used for the last 10 yr in Sardinia (Italy) to protect cork oak forests against the gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar L.). Until now, the protective antilepidopteran efficacies of each of the various spray treatments rather than their effects on the environment have been evaluated. Consequently, the persistence of Btk and its toxin, released in sprays (FORAY 48B®), in soils of cork oak stands, located in Orotelli, Tempio Pausania and Calangianus (Sardinia), were investigated. In the Calangianus soil, the numbers of Btk remained essentially constant for 28 months (the longest time studied) after spraying, indicating that Btk was able to compete with the indigenous microbial community; the toxin was detected 28 months after spraying by immunological assay, but at a reduced concentration; and the larvicidal activity decreased essentially linearly to 14 months and then decreased markedly between 14 and 28 months. In the Tempio Pausania and Orotelli soils, cells of Btk were detected, whereas the toxin was not detected by immunological and larvicidal assays, 52 and 88 months (the longest times studied) after spraying, respectively. The numbers of Btk cells detected were probably too low to account for the presence of the toxin in all of the soils studied, as there was no correlation between numbers of Btk and toxin detected by immunological assays (correlation coefficient of -0.66) in the Calangianus soil. Our results indicated that Btk and its toxin introduced into soils in sprays can persist for long periods (at least 88 months for Btk and at least 28 months for its toxin).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1635-1642
Number of pages8
JournalSoil Biology and Biochemistry
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2003


  • Antilepidopteran spray
  • Bacillus thuringiensis subsp. kurstaki
  • Btk toxin
  • FORAY 48B®
  • Insecticidal crystal proteins
  • Persistence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Soil Science


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