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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Heavy Metals in the Environment

Arsenic Retention in Foliage and Soil after Monosodium Methyl Arsenate (MSMA) Application to Turfgrass


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 43 No. 1, p. 379-388
    Received: July 05, 2013
    Published: June 23, 2014

    * Corresponding author(s): matt_polizzotto@ncsu.edu
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  1. Audrey R. Mattesona,
  2. Travis W. Gannonb,
  3. Matthew D. Jeffriesb,
  4. Stephanie Hainesac,
  5. Dustin F. Lewisbc and
  6. Matthew L. Polizzotto *a
  1. a Dep. of Soil Science, North Carolina State Univ., 101 Derieux St., Campus Box 7619, Raleigh, NC 27695
    b Dep. of Crop Science, North Carolina State Univ., 101 Derieux St., Campus Box 7620, Raleigh, NC 27695
    c current address: BASF, 26 Davis Dr., Research Triangle Park, NC 27709


Monosodium methyl arsenate (MSMA) is a commonly used herbicide for weed control in turfgrass systems. There is concern that arsenic from applied MSMA could leach to groundwater or run off into surface water, thereby threatening human and ecosystem health. The USEPA has proposed a phase-out of the herbicide but is seeking additional research about the toxicity and environmental impacts of MSMA before establishing a final ruling. Little research has systematically investigated MSMA in field-based settings; instead, risks have been inferred from isolated field measurements or model-system studies. Accordingly, the overall goal of this study was to quantify the fate of arsenic after MSMA application to a managed turfgrass system. After MSMA application to turfgrass-covered and bareground lysimeters, the majority of arsenic was retained in turfgrass foliage and soils throughout year-long experiments, with 50 to 101% of the applied arsenic recovered in turfgrass systems and 55 to 66% recovered in bareground systems. Dissolved arsenic concentrations from 76.2-cm-depth pore water in the MSMA-treated soils were consistently <2 μg L−1, indistinguishable from background concentrations. As measured by adsorption isotherm experiments, MSMA retention by the sandy soil from our field site was markedly less than retention by a washed sand and a clay loam. Collectively, these results suggest that under aerobic conditions, minimal arsenic leaching to groundwater would occur after a typical application of MSMA to turfgrass. However, repeated MSMA application may pose environmental risks. Additional work is needed to examine arsenic cycling near the soil surface and to define arsenic speciation changes under different soil conditions.

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Copyright © 2014. Copyright © by the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America, Inc.