Reducing herbicides and veterinary antibiotics losses from agroecosystems using vegetative buffers

J Environ Qual. 2011 May-Jun;40(3):791-9. doi: 10.2134/jeq2010.0141.


Multiple species vegetative buffer strips (VBSs) have been recommended as a cost-effective approach to mitigate agrochemical transport in surface runoff derived from agronomic operations, while at the same time offering a broader range of long-term ecological and environmental benefits. However, the effect of VBS designs and species composition on reducing herbicide and veterinary antibiotic transport has not been well documented. An experiment consisting of three VBS designs and one continuous cultivated fallow control replicated in triplicate was conducted to assess effectiveness in reducing herbicide and antibiotic transport for claypan soils. The three VBS designs include (i) tall fescue, (ii) tall fescue with a switchgrass hedge barrier, and (iii) native vegetation (largely eastern gamagrass). Rainfall simulation was used to create uniform antecedent soil moisture content in the plots and to generate runoff. Our results suggested that all VBS significantly reduced the transport of dissolved and sediment-bound atrazine, metolachlor, and glyphosate in surface runoff by 58 to 72%. Four to 8 m of any tested VBS reduced dissolved sulfamethazine transport in the surface runoff by more than 70%. The tall fescue VBS was overall most effective at reducing dissolved tylosin and enrofloxacin transport in the runoff (>75%). The developed exponential regression models can be used to predict expected field-scale results and provide design criteria for effective field implementation of grass buffers. Our study has demonstrated that an optimized VBS design may achieve desired agrochemical reductions and minimize acreage removed from crop production.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / analysis*
  • Biodegradation, Environmental
  • Environmental Pollution / prevention & control*
  • Herbicides / analysis*
  • Missouri
  • Models, Biological
  • Poaceae / growth & development
  • Regression Analysis
  • Soil Pollutants / analysis*
  • Water Movements
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Herbicides
  • Soil Pollutants
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical