Phytotoxicity of veterinary antibiotics to seed germination and root elongation of crops

Min Pan, L. M. Chu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

181 Citations (Scopus)


Large quantities of veterinary antibiotics (VAs) are being used worldwide in agricultural fields through wastewater irrigation and manure application. They cause damages to the ecosystem when discharged into the environment, but there is a lack of information on their toxicity to plants and animals. This study evaluated the phytotoxic effects of five major VAs, namely tetracycline (TC), sulfamethazine (SMZ), norfloxacin (NOR), erythromycin (ERY) and chloramphenicol (CAP), on seed germination and root elongation in lettuce, tomato, carrot and cucumber, and investigated the relationship between their physicochemical properties and phytotoxicities. Results show that these compounds significantly inhibited root elongation (p<0.05), the most sensitive endpoint for the phytotoxicity test. TC was associated with the highest level of toxicity, followed by NOR, ERY, SMZ and CAP. Regarding crop species, lettuce was found to be sensitive to most of the VAs. The median effect concentration (EC50) of TC, SMZ, NOR, ERY and CAP to lettuce was 14.4, 157, 49.4, 68.8 and 204 mg/L, respectively. A quantitative structure-activity relationship (QSAR) model has been established based on the measured data. It is evident that hydrophobicity was the most important factor governing the phytotoxicity of these compounds to seeds, which could be explained by the polar narcosis mechanism. Lettuce is considered a good biomarker for VAs in the environment. According to the derived equation, phytotoxicities of selected VA compounds on different crops can be calculated, which could be applicable to other VAs. Environmental risks of VAs were summarized based on the phytotoxicity results and other persistent factors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)228-237
Number of pages10
JournalEcotoxicology and Environmental Safety
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Edible crops
  • Phytotoxicity
  • Root elongation
  • Seed germination
  • Veterinary antibiotics


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