University of Tasmania

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Impact of climatic and soil conditions on environmental fate of atrazine used under plantation forestry in Australia

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-17, 04:48 authored by Kookana, R, Holz, GK, Barnes, C, Bubb, K, Fremlin, R, Boardman, B
We studied the leaching and dissipation of atrazine (2-chloro-4-ethylamino-6-isopropylamino-1, 3, 5-s-triazine) and its two principal metabolites (desethylatrazine and desisopropylatrazine) for more than two years through soil profiles at five forestry sites across Australia (representing subtropical, temperate and Mediterranean climatic conditions with rainfall ranging from 780 to 1536 mm yr -1). Following atrazine applications at local label rates, soil cores were collected at regular intervals (up to depths of 90-150 cm), and the residues of the three compounds in soil were analysed in composite samples using liquid chromatography. Bromide was applied simultaneously with atrazine to follow the movement of the soil water. While bromide ion rapidly leached through the entire profile, in most cases the bulk of atrazine, desethylatrazine and desisopropylatrazine remained in the top 45 cm of the soil profile. However, a small fraction of residue moved deeper into the soil profile and at a subtropical site (Toolara) trace levels (ng L -1) of atrazine and one of its metabolites (DEA) were detected in perched groundwater located at a depth of 1.8 m. Data on the total residues of atrazine in soil profiles from all sites except the Tasmanian site fitted a first-order decay model. The half-life of atrazine in surface soils at the subtropical sites (Toolara and Imbil) ranged from 11 to 21 days. Four separate applications of atrazine at Toolara resulted in a narrow range of half-lives (16 ± 3.6 days), confirming relatively rapid dissipation of atrazine under subtropical conditions (Queensland). In contrast, a prominent biphasic pattern of initial rapid loss followed by very slow phase of degradation of atrazine was observed under the colder temperate climate of Highclere (Tasmania). The data showed that while its 50% (DT 50) loss occurred relatively rapidly (36 days), more than 10% of herbicide residue was still detectable in the profile even a year after application (DT 90 = 375 days). The rate of dissipation of atrazine at warm subtropical Queensland sites (Imbil and Toolara) was 2-3 times faster than sites located in colder climate of Tasmania. The marked contrast in DT 50 values between subtropical and temperate sites suggest that climatic conditions (soil temperature) is one of the key factors affecting atrazine dissipation. At the Tasmanian site, the combination of leaching of the herbicide in subsoil and slower microbial activity at cooler temperatures would have caused a longer persistence of atrazine. © 2010.


Publication title

Journal of Environmental Management










Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA)


Academic Press Ltd Elsevier Science Ltd

Place of publication

24-28 Oval Rd, London, England, Nw1 7Dx

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Evaluation, allocation, and impacts of land use

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