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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract -

The Pesticide Content of Surface Water Draining from Agricultural Fields—A Review1


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 7 No. 4, p. 459-472
    Received: Dec 15, 1977

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  1. R. D. Wauchope2



The literature on pesticide losses in runoff waters from agricultural fields is reviewed. For the majority of commercial pesticides, total losses are 0.5%0 or less of the amounts applied, unless severe rainfall conditions occur within 1–2 weeks after application. Exceptions are the organochlorine insecticides, which may lose about 1% regardless of weather pattern because of their long persistence; and soil surface-applied, wettable-powder formulations of herbicides, which may lose up to 5%, depending on weather and slope, because of the ease of washoff of the powder.

Pesticides with solubilities of 10 ppm or higher are lost mainly in the water phase of runoff, and erosion control practices will have little effect on such losses. Organochlorine pesticides, paraquat, and arsenical pesticides, however, are important cases of pesticides which are strongly adsorbed by sediments, and erosion control can be important in controlling losses of these compounds.

The behavior and fate of pesticides in streams receiving runoff is generally not known. Information on such factors as time and distance of impact of a given runoff event, ability of local ecosystems to recover from transient pesticide concentrations, and dissipation or concentration processes in aquatic ecosystems will have to be obtained before “edge-of-field” pesticide losses can be related to water quality in receiving waters.

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