Herbicide incorporation by irrigation and tillage impact on runoff loss

J Environ Qual. 2008 May 2;37(3):839-47. doi: 10.2134/jeq2007.0306. Print 2008 May-Jun.


Runoff from farm fields is a common source of herbicide residues in surface waters. Incorporation by irrigation has the potential to reduce herbicide runoff risks. To assess impacts, rainfall was simulated on plots located in a peanut (Arachis hypogaea L.) field in Georgia's Atlantic Coastal Plain region after pre-emergence application of metolachlor (2-chloro-N-(2-ethyl-6-methylphenyl)-N-[(1S)-2-methoxy-1-methylethyl]-acetamide) and pendimethalin (N-(1-ethylpropyl)-3,4-dimethyl-2,6-dinitro-benzenamine). Runoff, sediment, and herbicide loss as function of strip tillage (ST) versus conventional tillage (CT) were compared with and without irrigation (12.5 mm) after application of an herbicide tank mixture. For the CT system, metolachlor runoff was reduced 2x and pendimethalin 1.2x when compared with the non-irrigated treatment. The difference in irrigated and non-irrigated metolachlor means was significant (P = 0.05). Irrigation reduced metolachlor runoff by 1.3x in the ST system, but there was a 1.4x increase for pendimethalin. Overall results indicated that irrigation incorporation reduces herbicide runoff with the greatest impact when CT is practiced and products like metolachlor, which have relatively low K(oc) and high water solubility, are used. The lower ST system response was likely due to a combination of spray interception and retention by the ST system cover crop mulch and higher ST soil organic carbon content and less total runoff. During the study, the measured K(oc) of both herbicides on runoff sediment was found to vary with tillage and irrigation after herbicide application. Generally, K(oc) was higher for ST sediment and when irrigation incorporation was used with the CT system. These results have significant implications for simulation model parametization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acetamides / chemistry*
  • Agriculture*
  • Aniline Compounds / chemistry*
  • Herbicides / chemistry*
  • Rain


  • Acetamides
  • Aniline Compounds
  • Herbicides
  • pendimethalin
  • metolachlor