Fate of glyphosate in soil and the possibility of leaching to ground and surface waters: a review

Pest Manag Sci. 2008 Apr;64(4):441-56. doi: 10.1002/ps.1512.


The very wide use of glyphosate to control weeds in agricultural, silvicultural and urban areas throughout the world requires that special attention be paid to its possible transport from terrestrial to aquatic environments. The aim of this review is to present and discuss the state of knowledge on sorption, degradation and leachability of glyphosate in soils. Difficulties of drawing clear and unambiguous conclusions because of strong soil dependency and limited conclusive investigations are pointed out. Nevertheless, the risk of ground and surface water pollution by glyphosate seems limited because of sorption onto variable-charge soil minerals, e.g. aluminium and iron oxides, and because of microbial degradation. Although sorption and degradation are affected by many factors that might be expected to affect glyphosate mobility in soils, glyphosate leaching seems mainly determined by soil structure and rainfall. Limited leaching has been observed in non-structured sandy soils, while subsurface leaching to drainage systems was observed in a structured soil with preferential flow in macropores, but only when high rainfall followed glyphosate application. Glyphosate in drainage water runs into surface waters but not necessarily to groundwater because it may be sorbed and degraded in deeper soil layers before reaching the groundwater. Although the transport of glyphosate from land to water environments seems very limited, knowledge about subsurface leaching and surface runoff of glyphosate as well as the importance of this transport as related to ground and surface water quality is scarce.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adsorption
  • Biodegradation, Environmental
  • Glycine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Glycine / chemistry
  • Glycine / metabolism
  • Herbicides / chemistry*
  • Herbicides / metabolism
  • Pesticide Residues / chemistry*
  • Pesticide Residues / metabolism
  • Soil Pollutants / chemistry*
  • Soil Pollutants / metabolism
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / chemistry*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / metabolism


  • Herbicides
  • Pesticide Residues
  • Soil Pollutants
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • glyphosate
  • Glycine