The spatial variability in mineralization of atrazine, isoproturon and metamitron in soil and subsoil samples taken from a 135-ha catchment in north France was studied. Fifty-one samples from the top layer were taken to represent exhaustively the 31 agricultural fields and 21 soil types of the catchment. Sixteen additional samples were collected between depths of 0.7 and 10 m to represent the major geological materials encountered in the vadose zone of the catchment. All these samples were incubated with 14C-labelled atrazine under laboratory conditions at 28 degrees C. Fourteen selected surface samples which exhibited distinctly different behaviour for atrazine dissipation (including sorption and mineralization) were incubated with 14C-isoproturon and 14C-metamitron. Overall soil microbial activity and specific herbicide degradation activities were monitored during the incubations through measurements of total carbon dioxide and 14C-carbon dioxide respectively. At the end of the incubations, extractable and non-extractable (bound) residues remaining in soils were measured. Variability of herbicide dissipation half-life in soil surface samples was lower for atrazine and metamitron (CV < 12%) than for isoproturon (CV = 46%). The main contributor to the isoproturon dissipation variability was the variability of the extractable residues. For the other herbicides, spatial variability was mainly related to the variability of their mineralization. In all cases, herbicide mineralization half-lives showed higher variability than those of dissipation. Sorption or physicochemical soil properties could not explain atrazine and isoproturon degradation, whose main factors were probably directly related to the dynamics of the specific microbial degradation activity. In contrast, variability of metamitron degradation was significantly correlated to sorption coefficient (K(d)) through correlation with the sorptive soil components, organic matter and clay. Herbicide degradation decreased with depth as did the overall microbial activity. Atrazine mineralization activity was found down to a depth of 2.5 m; beyond that, it was negligible.
Copyright 2005 Society of Chemical Industry