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A meta-analysis of pesticide loss in runoff under conventional tillage and no-till management


Global agricultural intensification has led to increased pesticide use (37-fold from 1960 to 2005) and soil erosion (14% since 2000). Conservation tillage, including no-till (NT), has been proposed as an alternative to conventional plow till (PT) to mitigate soil erosion, but past studies have reported mixed results on the effect of conservation tillage on pesticide loss. To explore the underlying factors of these differences, a meta-analysis was conducted using published data on pesticide concentration and load in agricultural runoff from NT and PT fields. Peer-reviewed articles (1985–2016) were compiled to build a database for analysis. Contrary to expectations, results showed greater concentration of atrazine, cyanazine, dicamba, and simazine in runoff from NT than PT fields. Further, we observed greater load of dicamba and metribuzin, but reduced load of alachlor from NT fields. Overall, the concentration and the load of pesticides were greater in runoff from NT fields, especially pesticides with high solubility and low affinity for solids. Thus, NT farming affects soil properties that control pesticide retention and interactions with soils, and ultimately their mobility in the environment. Future research is needed for a more complete understanding of pesticide-soil interactions in NT systems. This research could inform the selection of pesticides by farmers and improve the predictive power of pesticide transport models.

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This research was supported by grants from the Indiana Water Resources Research Center (104B grant, 4107-73618) and USDA-NIFA (2014-51130-22492). The authors thank Dr. Stefani Daryanto for assistance with the MetaWin software package.

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Elias, D., Wang, L. & Jacinthe, PA. A meta-analysis of pesticide loss in runoff under conventional tillage and no-till management. Environ Monit Assess 190, 79 (2018).

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