Irrigation Science

, Volume 36, Issue 3, pp 159–166 | Cite as

Removal of paclobutrazol from irrigation water using granular-activated carbon

  • George A. Grant
  • Paul R. Fisher
  • James E. Barrett
  • Patrick C. Wilson
Original Paper


A small-scale granular-activated carbon (GAC) system was evaluated for removal of the plant growth regulator paclobutrazol [(2RS,3RS)-1-(4-chlorophenyl)-4,4-dimethyl-2-(1H-1,2,4-triazol-1-yl)pentan-3-ol] from water. A solution with 50 µg L−1 of paclobutrazol was passed through canisters filled with 0.50–4.75 mm particle size (8 × 30 US mesh) granular-activated carbon at a flow rate of 6 L min−1. Paclobutrazol solution was exposed to varying amounts of contact time with GAC by increasing the number of filters in series. Analysis of samples using liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) found that paclobutrazol concentration decreased by 90 and 99% with a contact time of 12 and 59 s, respectively. In bioassay tests, broccoli hypocotyls at 14 days were 104% longer and begonia dry mass was 36% greater when treated with solutions that had a contact time of 59 s compared with the 0 s of GAC exposure. With the highest GAC contact time, begonia dry mass was the same as for plants treated with a zero paclobutrazol solution. Bituminous coal and coconut shell GAC sources were equally effective in reducing paclobutrazol concentration based on broccoli hypocotyl length, and paclobutrazol concentration measured using gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC-MS). Removal of paclobutrazol was not affected by solution pH from 4.0 to 10.0.



We thank the USDA-ARS Floriculture and Nursery Research Initiative award 58-3607-8-725, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA, Award 2014-51181-22372, Gene and Barbara Batson Endowed Nursery Fund, and industry partners of the Floriculture Research Alliance ( for supporting this research.


This study was funded primarily by the NIFA Grant Clean Water3—reduce, remediate, recycle: informed decision-making to facilitate use of alternative water resources (Grant Number: 2014-51181-22372).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


  1. Adriansen E (1989) Growth and flowering in pot plants soaked with plant growth regulators solutions in ebb and flood benches. Acta Hortic 251:319–327CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Agrawal A, Pandey RS, Sharma B (2010) Water pollution with special reference to pesticide contamination in India. J Water Res Prot 2:432–448. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ali I, Asim M, Khan TA (2012) Low cost adsorbents for the removal of organic pollutants from wastewater. J Environ Manag 113:170–183CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Altland JE, Morris L, Boldt J, Fisher PR, Raudales RE (2015) Sample container and storage for paclobutrazol monitoring in irrigation water. HortTechnology 25:769–773Google Scholar
  5. Argo WR, Biernbaum JA, Warncke DD (1997) Geographical characterization of greenhouse irrigation water. HortTechnology 7:49–55Google Scholar
  6. Babel S, Kurniawan TA (2002) Low-cost adsorbents for heavy metals uptake from contaminated water: a review. J Hazard Mater B 97:219–243CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Barrett JE (2006) Detecting growth regulator residues. Greenh Product News 13:40Google Scholar
  8. Beerling EAM, Blok C, van der Maas AA, van Os EA (2014) Closing the water and nutrient cycles in soiless cultivation systems. Acta Hortic 1034:49–55CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Brooks D, Roll RR, Naylor W (2000) Wastewater technology fact sheet granular activated carbon adsorption and regeneration. Environmental Protection Agency, USA, (832-F-00-017) Google Scholar
  10. Chowdhury ZK, Summers RS, Westerhoff GP, Leto BJ, Nowack KO, Corwin CJ (2013) Activated carbon: solutions for improving water quality. Denver, ColoradoGoogle Scholar
  11. Clements M (2002) Granular activated carbon management at a water treatment plant. Dissertation. Rand Afrikaans UniversityGoogle Scholar
  12. Cobb A, Warms M, Maurer EP, Chiesa S (2012) Low-tech coconut shell activated charcoal production. Int J Serv Learning Eng 7(1):99–104Google Scholar
  13. Corwin CJ, Summers RS (2012) Controlling organic contaminants with GAC adsorption. Am Water Assoc 104(1):43–44Google Scholar
  14. Cougnaud A, Faur C, Cloirec PL (2005) Removal of pesticides from aqueous solution: quantitative relationship between activated carbon characteristics and adsorption properties. Environ Technol 26:857–866CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. DeSilva F (2000) Activated carbon filtration. Water Qual Products Mag. Accessed 29 Jan 2018
  16. Environmental Protection Agency (1999) Enhanced coagulation and enhanced precipitative softening guidance manual. Environmental Protection Agency, USA, (815-R-99-012) Google Scholar
  17. Fisher P, Grant G, Zayas V, Raudales R, Altland J, Boldt J (2016) Granular activated carbon to remove agrichemicals from water. Greenh Grow Mag, 20–22Google Scholar
  18. Foo KY, Hameed BH (2009) Detoxification of pesticide waste via activated carbon adsorption process. J Hazard Mater 175:1–11CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Freeman H, Harris E (1995) Hazardous waste remediation: innovative treatment technologies. Lancaster, PennsylvaniaGoogle Scholar
  20. Hart J, Chambers VK (1991) Removal of pesticides by GAC and GAC/oxidants. Department of the Environment, USA, 2922 Accessed 29 Jan 2018
  21. Hong S (1998) The role of pH and initial concentration on GAC adsorption for removal of natural organic matter. Korean Soc Environ Eng 3(4):183–190Google Scholar
  22. Hwang SJ, Lee MY, Sivanesan I, Jeong R (2008) Afr J Biotech 7(10):1487–1493Google Scholar
  23. Ignatowicz K (2009) Selection of sorbent for removing pesticides during water treatment. J Hazard Mater 169:953–957CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Ioannidou OA, Zabaniotou AA, Stavropoulos GG, Azharul Islam M, Albanis TA (2010) Preparation of activated carbons from agricultural residues for pesticide adsorption. Chemosphere 80:1328–1336CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Jabit NB (2007) The production and characterization of activated carbon using local agricultural waste through chemical activation process. Thesis, Zonguldak Karaelmas UniversityGoogle Scholar
  26. Jacyna T, Dodds KG (1995) Some effects of soil-applied paclobutrazol on performance of ‘Sundrop’ apricot (Prunus armeniaca L.) trees and on residue in the soil. N Z J Crop Hortic Sci 23(3):323–329CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kamrin MA, Montgomery JH (2000) Agrochemical and pesticide desk reference. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FLGoogle Scholar
  28. Kennedy AM, Summers RS (2015) Effect of DOM size on organic micropollutant adsorption by GAC. Environ Sci Technol 49:6617–6624CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Latimer JG (2015) Growth regulators for containerized herbaceous perennial plants, 2014-15 Guide to Growing Top-Quality Perennials. Grow Talks Mag Ball Publishing, Batavia, ILGoogle Scholar
  30. Maganhotto CM, Silva S, Vieira RF, Nicolella G (2002) Paclobutrazol effects on soil microorganisms. Appl Soil Ecol 22:79–86Google Scholar
  31. Martin R (1980) Activated carbon product selection for water and wastewater treatment. Ind Eng Chem Product Res Dev 19(3):439CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (2012) Paclobutrazol. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources. Accessed 29 Jan 2018
  33. Million JB, Barrett JE, Nell TA, Clark DG (1999a) Paclobutrazol distribution following application to two media as determined by bioassay. HortScience 34:1099–1102Google Scholar
  34. Million JB, Barrett JE, Nell TA, Clark DG (1999b) Inhibiting growth of flowering crops with ancymidol and paclobutrazol on subirrigation water. HortScience 34:1103–1105Google Scholar
  35. Million JB, Barrett JE, Nell TA, Clark DG (2002) One-time vs. continuous application of paclobutrazol in subirrigation water for the production of bedding plants. HortScience 37:345–347Google Scholar
  36. Miltner D (2007) Granular activated carbon. Environmental Protection Agency Water Treatment Database, USA. Accessed 29 Jan 2018
  37. Orlandini E (1999) Pesticide removal by combined ozonation and granular activated carbon. Dissertation. Wageningen UniversityGoogle Scholar
  38. Patil A, Hatch G, Michaud C, Brotman M, Regunathan P, Tallon R, Andrew R, Murphy S, Strat SV, Kim M, Kappel B, Battenberg G (2013) Granular activated carbon (GAC) fact sheet. Water Quality Association. Accessed 29 Jan 2018
  39. Pollard SJT, Fowler GD, Sollars CJ, Perry R (1992) Low-cost adsorbents for waste and wastewater treatment: a review. Sci Total Environ 116:31–52CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Potwara R (2012) The ABCs of activated carbon. Water Quality Products Magazine. Accessed 29 Jan 2018
  41. Raudales RE, Fisher PR, Hall CR (2016) The cost of irrigation sources and water treatment in greenhouse production. Irrig Sci 35:43–54CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Runkle ES (2012) Successful use of paclobutrazol. Greenh Product News 22(4):62Google Scholar
  43. Semmens MJ, Norgaard GE, Hohenstein G, Staples AB (1986) Influence of pH on the removal of organics by granular activated carbon. Am Water Works Assoc 78(5):89–93CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Smith G, Santo PD (2011) Neutralising pesticides in recirculating water systems within a protected cropping system. Horticulture Australia Ltd., Australia, (Project Number: VG09121) Google Scholar
  45. Sounthararajah DP, Loganathan P, Kandasamy J, Vigneswaran S (2015) Effects of humic acid and suspended solids on the removal of heavy metals from water by adsorption onto granular activated carbon. Int J Environ Res Public Health 12(9):10475–10489CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  46. Srivastava B, Jhelum V, Basu DD, Patanjali PK (2009) Adsorbents for pesticide uptake from contaminated water: a review. J Sci Ind Res 68:839–850Google Scholar
  47. Summers RS, Nappe DRU, Snoeyink VL (2010) Quality and treatment: a handbook of community water supplies. Mcgraw, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  48. Summers RS, Kennedy AM, Knappe DRU, Reinert AM, Fotta ME, Mastropole AJ, Corwin CJ, Roccaro J (2014) Evaluations of available scale-up approaches for the design of GAC contactors. Water Research Foundation, Environmental Protection Agency, USA (Web Report #4235) Google Scholar
  49. Uva WL, Weiler CT, Milligan RA (2001) Economic analysis of adopting zero runoff subirrigation systems in greenhouse operations in the northeast and north central United States. HortScience 36(1):167–173Google Scholar
  50. van Ruijven JPM, van Os EA, van Der Staaij M, Beerling EAM (2014) Evaluation of technologies for purification of greenhouse horticultural discharge water. Acta Hortic 1034:133–140CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Wang KS, Lu CY, Chang SH (2011) Evaluation of acute toxicity and teratogenic effects of plant growth regulators by Daphnia magna embryo assay. J Hazard Mater 190:520–528CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. Whipker BE (2015) Plant growth regulators for annuals. grower talks magazine. Ball Publishing, 2015 Plant Growth Regulator Guide. Accessed 29 Jan 2018

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • George A. Grant
    • 1
  • Paul R. Fisher
    • 1
  • James E. Barrett
    • 1
  • Patrick C. Wilson
    • 2
  1. 1.Environmental Horticulture DepartmentUniversity of Florida, IFASGainesvilleUSA
  2. 2.Soil and Water Sciences DepartmentUniversity of Florida, IFASGainesvilleUSA

Personalised recommendations