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Adsorption and degradation of four acidic herbicides in soils from southern Spain

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BACKGROUND: Pesticide degradation and adsorption in soils are key processes determining whether pesticide use will have any impact on environmental quality. Pesticide degradation in soil generally results in a reduction in toxicity, but some pesticides have breakdown products that are more toxic than the parent compound. Adsorption to soil particles ensures that herbicide is retained in the place where its biological activity is expressed and also determines potential for transportation away from the site of action. Degradation and adsorption are complex processes, and shortcomings in understanding them still restrict the ability to predict the fate and behaviour of ionisable pesticides. This paper reports the sorption and degradation behaviour of four acidic pesticides in five soils from southern Spain. Results are used to investigate the influence of soil and pesticide properties on adsorption and degradation as well as the potential link between the two processes.

RESULTS: Adsorption and degradation of four acidic pesticides were measured in four soils from Spain characterised by small organic matter (OM) contents (0.3–1.0%) and varying clay contents (3–66%). In general, sorption increased in the order dicamba < metsulfuron‐methyl < 2,4‐D < flupyrsulfuron‐methyl‐sodium. Both OM and clay content were found to be important in determining adsorption, but relative differences in clay content between soils were much larger than those in OM content, and therefore clay content was the main property determining the extent of herbicide adsorption for these soils. pH was negatively correlated with adsorption for all compounds apart from metsulfuron‐methyl. A clear positive correlation was observed for degradation rate with clay and OM content (P < 0.01), and a negative correlation was observed with pH (P < 0.01). The exception was metsulfuron‐methyl, for which degradation was found to be significantly correlated only with soil bioactivity (P < 0.05).

CONCLUSIONS: Both OM and clay content were found to be important in determining adsorption, but relative differences in clay content between soils were much larger than those in OM content, and therefore clay content was the main property determining the extent of herbicide adsorption for soils of this type. pH was negatively correlated with adsorption for all compounds apart from metsulfuron‐methyl. The contrasting behaviour shown for these four acidic pesticides indicates that chemical degradation in soil is more difficult to predict than adsorption. Most of the variables measured were interrelated, and different behaviours were observed even for compounds from the same chemical class and with similar structures. Copyright © 2008 Society of Chemical Industry
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Keywords: carboxylic acids; clay; correlation; adsorption; organic matter; sulfonylureas

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2008-07-01

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