Dung beetles and soil bacteria reduce risk of human pathogens

20th March 2019

Food safety regulations increasingly pressure growers to remove hedgerows, ponds and other natural habitats from farms to keep out pathogen-carrying wildlife and livestock. Yet, this could come at the cost of biodiversity. New research encourages the presence of dung beetles and soil bacteria at farms as they naturally suppress E. coli and other harmful pathogens before spreading to humans.

Food safety regulations increasingly pressure growers to remove hedgerows, ponds and other natural habitats from farms to keep out pathogen-carrying wildlife and livestock. Yet, this could come at the cost of biodiversity.

New research published today in the Journal of Applied Ecologyencourages the presence of dung beetles and soil bacteria at farms as they naturally suppress E. coli and other harmful pathogens before spreading to humans.

Wild and domesticated pig feces have been known to contaminate produce in the field, leading to foodborne illnesses. Wild, or feral, pigs especially pose a risk of moving around pathogens as farmers cannot control where or when these large animals might show up.

Matthew Jones, who led the research as part of his PhD project at Washington State University, said: "Farmers are more and more concerned with food safety. If someone gets sick from produce traced back to a particular farm it can be devastating for them."

"As a result, many remove natural habitats from their farm fields to discourage visits by livestock or wildlife, making the farmland less hospitable to pollinators and other beneficial insects or birds," he added.

The full article can be read here