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Test of the Root Zone Water Quality Model (RZWQM) for predicting runoff of atrazine, alachlor and fenamiphos species from conventional‐tillage corn mesoplots

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The Root Zone Water Quality Model (RZWQM) is a comprehensive, integrated physical, biological and chemical process model that simulates plant growth and movement of water, nutrients and pesticides in a representative area of an agricultural system. We tested the ability of RZWQM to predict surface runoff losses of atrazine, alachlor, fenamiphos and two fenamiphos oxidative degradates against results from a 2‐year mesoplot rainfall simulation experiment. Model inputs included site‐specific soil properties and weather, but default values were used for most other parameters, including pesticide properties. No attempts were made to calibrate the model except for soil crust/seal hydraulic conductivity and an adjustment of pesticide persistence in near‐surface soil. Approximately 2.5 (±0.9), 3.0 (±0.8) and 0.3 (±0.2)% of the applied alachlor, atrazine and fenamiphos were lost in surface water runoff, respectively. Runoff losses in the ‘critical’ events—those occurring 24 h after pesticide application—were respectively 91 (±5), 86 (±6) and 96 (±3)% of total runoff losses for these pesticides. RZWQM adequately predicted runoff water volumes, giving a predicted/observed ratio of 1.2 (±0.5) for all events. Predicted pesticide concentrations and loads from the ‘critical’ events were generally within a factor of 2, but atrazine losses from these events were underestimated, which was probably a formulation effect, and fenamiphos losses were overestimated due to rapid oxidation. The ratios of predicted to measured pesticide concentrations in all runoff events varied between 0.2 and 147, with an average of 7. Large over‐predictions of pesticide runoff occurred in runoff events later in the season when both loads and concentrations were small. The normalized root mean square error for pesticide runoff concentration predictions varied between 42 and 122%, with an average of 84%. Pesticide runoff loads were predicted with a similar accuracy. These results indicate that the soil‐water mixing model used in RZWQM is a robust predictor of pesticide entrainment and runoff. Published in 2004 for SCI by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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Keywords: RZWQM; alachlor; atrazine; daughter product formation and transport; fenamiphos; fenamiphos sulfone; fenamiphos sulfoxide; model performance evaluation

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Environmental and Turf Services, Inc, Wheaton, MD 20902, USA 2: USDA-ARS, PO Box 748, Tifton, GA 31793, USA 3: USDA-ARS, PO Box E, Fort Collins, CO 80522, USA 4: USDA-ARS, National Soil Tilth Laboratory, Ames, IA 50011, USA

Publication date: 2004-03-01

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