Biodegradation of the herbicide propanil, and its 3,4-dichloroaniline by-product in a continuously operated biofilm reactor.
The persistence of propanil in soil and aquatic environments along with the possible accumulation of toxic degradation products, such as chloroanilines, is of environmental concern. In this work, a continuous small-scale bioprocess to degrade the herbicide propanil, its main catabolic by-product, 3,4-dichloroaniline (3,4-DCA), and the herbicide adjuvants is carried out. A microbial consortium, constituted by nine bacterial genera, was selected. The isolated strains, identified by amplification and sequencing of their 16S rDNA, were: Acidovorax sp., Luteibacter (rhizovicinus), Xanthomonas sp., Flavobacterium sp., Variovorax sp., Acinetobacter (calcoaceticus), Pseudomonas sp., Rhodococcus sp., and Kocuria sp. The ability of the microbial consortium to degrade the herbicide was evaluated in a biofilm reactor at propanil loading rates ranging from 1.9 to 36.8 mg L(-1) h(-1). Complete removal of propanil, 3,4-DCA, chemical oxygen demand and total organic carbon was obtained at propanil loading rates up to 24.9 mg L(-1) h(-1). At higher loading rates, the removal efficiencies decayed. Four of the identified strains could grow individually in propanil, and 3,4-DCA: Pseudomonas sp., Acinetobacter calcoaceticus, Rhodococcus sp., and Xanthomonas sp. The Kokuria strain grew on 3,4-DCA, but not on propanil. The first three bacteria have been related to biodegradation of phenyl urea herbicides or chlorinated anilines. Although some strains of the genera Xanthomonas and Kocuria have a role in the biodegradation of several xenobiotic compounds, as far as we know, there are no reports about degradation of propanil by Xanthomonas or 3,4-DCA by Kocuria species.