Plant and Soil

, Volume 323, Issue 1–2, pp 267–283 | Cite as

Glyphosate and phosphorus leaching and residues in boreal sandy soil

  • Pirkko Laitinen
  • Sari Rämö
  • Unto Nikunen
  • Lauri Jauhiainen
  • Katri Siimes
  • Eila Turtola
Regular Article


Glyphosate [(N-(phosphonomethyl)glycine)] is a widely used herbicide and it is known to compete for the same sorption sites in soil as phosphorus. Persistence and losses of glyphosate were monitored in a field with low phosphorus status and possible correlation between glyphosate and phosphorus leaching losses was studied. Glyphosate and its metabolite AMPA (aminomethyl phosphonic acid) residues in soil samples were analysed after a single application in autumn. Twenty months after the application the residues of glyphosate and AMPA in the topsoil (0–25 cm) corresponded to 19% and 48%, respectively, of the applied amount of glyphosate, and traces of glyphosate and AMPA residues were detected in deeper soil layers (below 35 cm). These results indicate rather long persistence for glyphosate in boreal soils. Surface runoff and subsurface drainflow were collected continuously all year round for 20 months and analysed for glyphosate, AMPA, dissolved phosphate, total phosphorus and total suspended solids. The glyphosate concentrations in the surface runoff water were highest, with 99% of the total leaching losses obtained, during the periods of snow melting and soil thawing in the first winter following the autumn application. The total leaching of glyphosate was 5.12 g ha−1 and that of AMPA 0.48 g ha−1, corresponding to about 0.51% and 0.07%, respectively, of the applied amount of glyphosate. No residues of glyphosate and AMPA were detected in the subsurface drainflow. The correlations between concentrations of glyphosate and dissolved orthophosphate as well as glyphosate and total phosphorus in surface runoff were significant (p < 0.01).


AMPA Degradation Leaching field Root Phosphorus Soil management 



aminomethylphosphonic acid


degree of phosphorus saturation


Freundlich sorption coefficient


saturated hydraulic conductivity in undisturbed soil


phosphorus extracted with acid ammonium acetate


total phosphorus in soil


phosphorus extracted with water


dissolved orthophosphate phosphorus


standard deviation


total phosphorus in water


total solids



This study was funded by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of Finland and MTT Agrifood Research Finland. Helvi Heinonen-Tanski, Helinä Hartikainen and Sirpa Kurppa are acknowledged for their valuable suggestions concerning the study and improving the manuscript. We are grateful to Eija Karhu and Tauno Koivisto for data processing and the laboratory personnel at MTT Agrifood Research for their skilful analysis. Mrs. Sevastiana Ruusamo, M.A., is acknowledged for revising the English manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pirkko Laitinen
    • 1
  • Sari Rämö
    • 1
  • Unto Nikunen
    • 1
  • Lauri Jauhiainen
    • 1
  • Katri Siimes
    • 2
  • Eila Turtola
    • 1
  1. 1.MTT Agrifood Research FinlandJokioinenFinland
  2. 2.SYKE Finnish Environment InstituteHelsinkiFinland

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