Mississippi Delta cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.) production in rotation with corn (Zea mays L.) was evaluated in field experiments from 2000 to 2005 at Stoneville, Mississippi. Plots maintained under minimum tillage were established in 2000 on a Dundee silt loam with treatments including continuous cotton or corn and alternate cotton-corn rotations. Mineralization and dissipation of 14C [ring]-labeled atrazine were evaluated in the laboratory on soils collected prior to herbicide application in the first, second, third, and sixth years of the study. In soils collected in 2000, a maximum of 10% of the atrazine was mineralized after 30 days. After 1 year of herbicide application, atrazine-treated soils mineralized 52-57% of the radiolabeled atrazine in 30 days. By the sixth year of the study, greater than 59% of the atrazine was mineralized after 7 days in soils treated with atrazine, while soils from plots with no atrazine treatment mineralized less than 36%. The data also indicated rapid development of enhanced atrazine degradation in soils following 1 year of corn production with atrazine use. Atrazine mineralization was as rapid in soils under a rotation receiving biannual atrazine applications as in soils under continuous corn receiving annual applications of atrazine. Cumulative mineralization kinetics parameters derived from the Gompertz model (k and ti) were highly correlated with a history of atrazine application and total soil carbon content. Changes in the soil microbial community assessed by total fatty acid methyl ester (FAME) analysis indicated significant interactions of cropping system and sampling date, with FAME indicators for soil bacteria responsible for differences in community structure. Autoclaved soil lost all ability to mineralize atrazine, and atrazine-mineralizing bacteria were isolated from these plots, confirming the biological basis for atrazine mineralization. These results indicate that changes in degradative potential of a soil can occur rapidly and some changes in soil properties may be associated with cropping systems, which can contribute to enhanced atrazine degradation potential.