Occurrence of Azoxystrobin, Propiconazole, and Selected Other Fungicides in US Streams, 2005–2006
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Fungicides are used to prevent foliar diseases on a wide range of vegetable, field, fruit, and ornamental crops. They are generally more effective as protective rather than curative treatments, and hence tend to be applied before infections take place. Less than 1% of US soybeans were treated with a fungicide in 2002 but by 2006, 4% were treated. Like other pesticides, fungicides can move-off of fields after application and subsequently contaminate surface water, groundwater, and associated sediments. Due to the constant pressure from fungal diseases such as the recent Asian soybean rust outbreak, and the always-present desire to increase crop yields, there is the potential for a significant increase in the amount of fungicides used on US farms. Increased fungicide use could lead to increased environmental concentrations of these compounds. This study documents the occurrence of fungicides in select US streams soon after the first documentation of soybean rust in the US and prior to the corresponding increase in fungicide use to treat this problem. Water samples were collected from 29 streams in 13 states in 2005 and/or 2006, and analyzed for 12 target fungicides. Nine of the 12 fungicides were detected in at least one stream sample and at least one fungicide was detected in 20 of 29 streams. At least one fungicide was detected in 56% of the 103 samples, as many as five fungicides were detected in an individual sample, and mixtures of fungicides were common. Azoxystrobin was detected most frequently (45% of 103 samples) followed by metalaxyl (27%), propiconazole (17%), myclobutanil (9%), and tebuconazole (6%). Fungicide detections ranged from 0.002 to 1.15 μg/L. There was indication of a seasonal pattern to fungicide occurrence, with detections more common and concentrations higher in late summer and early fall than in spring. At a few sites, fungicides were detected in all samples collected suggesting the potential for season-long occurrence in some streams. Fungicide occurrence appears to be related to fungicide use in the associated drainage basins; however, current use information is generally lacking and more detailed occurrence data are needed to accurately quantify such a relation. Maximum concentrations of fungicides were typically one or more orders of magnitude less than current toxicity estimates for freshwater aquatic organisms or humans; however, gaps in current toxicological understandings of the effects of fungicides in the environment limit these interpretations.
KeywordsFungicide Soybean rust Toxicity Water quality
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