QUANTIFYING FUNGI AND THE PRESENCE OF ASPERGILLUS IN HEMP AND GARDEN SOILS OF GEORGIA
Hemp production in the state of Georgia recently began with the passage of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 which legalized its cultivation. Due to decades of prohibition, soil fungi that can possibly contaminate hemp products have not been widely investigated. Soil fungi belonging to the genus Aspergillus are known to produce mycotoxins, and human aspergillosis has been associated with cannabis use. There are currently no published studies that quantify fungi on hemp farms in Georgia, especially species belonging to the genus Aspergillus. Therefore, the goal of our study was to quantify the total amount of fungi and identify Aspergillus spp. in soil from hemp farms and vegetable gardens in Georgia. In addition, we sought to identify correlations between fungal populations and soil characteristics (water content, pH, ammonium (NH4+), and nitrate (NO3-)). Soils were collected in August of 2021 from five hemp farms, five vegetable gardens, and three non-agricultural sites. Total fungi and Aspergillus species were quantified using Dichloran-Rose Bengal-Chloramphenicol agar. There was not a significant difference in total fungi or Aspergillus among our three site types (p = 0.64). In addition, we did not observe a significant difference among our three site types for any of the measured soil parameters other than NO3-. Pearson correlation indicates a strong positive relationship between the total number of fungi and NO3- as well as total nitrogen (r = 0.87 and 0.94, respectively). Pathogenic Aspergillus (A. flavus, A. fumigatus, and A. terreus) were detected on hemp farms as well as in vegetable gardens. Aspergillus fumigatus is the most common cause of aspergillosis, and it was found on 40% of hemp farms and vegetable gardens surveyed. Our results indicate that there is not a significant difference between vegetable garden soils and hemp farm soils as it relates to total fungi and Aspergillus presence.
GCSU Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences
Stidston, Jaiden A. and Burt, C. Daniel
"QUANTIFYING FUNGI AND THE PRESENCE OF ASPERGILLUS IN HEMP AND GARDEN SOILS OF GEORGIA,"
Georgia Journal of Science, Vol. 81, No. 1, Article 35.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.gaacademy.org/gjs/vol81/iss1/35