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Saudi J Biol Sci. 2016 Jan;23(1):S83-92. doi: 10.1016/j.sjbs.2015.10.029. Epub 2015 Nov 28.

Microbial contamination of vegetable crop and soil profile in arid regions under controlled application of domestic wastewater.

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Center of Excellence in Desalination Technology, King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah 21589, Saudi Arabia.


Increasing lack of potable water in arid countries leads to the use of treated wastewater for crop production. However, the use of inappropriate irrigation practices could result in a serious contamination risk to plants, soils, and groundwater with sewage water. This research was initiated in view to the increasing danger of vegetable crops and groundwater contamination with pathogenic bacteria due to wastewater land application. The research was designed to study: (1) the effect of treated wastewater irrigation on the yield and microbial contamination of the radish plant under field conditions; (2) contamination of the agricultural soil profile with fecal coliform bacteria. Effluent from a domestic wastewater treatment plant (100%) in Jeddah city, Saudi Arabia, was diluted to 80% and 40% with the groundwater of the experimental site constituting three different water qualities plus groundwater as control. Radish plant was grown in two consecutive seasons under two drip irrigation systems and four irrigation water qualities. Upon harvesting, plant weight per ha, total bacterial, fecal coliform, fecal streptococci were detected per 100 g of dry matter and compared with the control. The soil profile was also sampled at an equal distance of 3 cm from soil surface for fecal coliform detection. The results indicated that the yield increased significantly under the subsurface irrigation system and the control water quality compared to surface irrigation system and other water qualities. There was a considerable drop in the count of all bacteria species under the subsurface irrigation system compared to surface irrigation. The bacterial count/g of the plant shoot system increased as the percentage of wastewater in the irrigation water increased. Most of the fecal coliform bacteria were deposited in the first few centimeters below the column inlet and the profile exponentially decreased with increasing depth.


Coliform; Contamination; Escherichia coli; Soil profile; Subsurface irrigation; Wastewater

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