Agron. Sustain. Dev.
Volume 28, Number 3, July-September 2008
Page(s) 419 - 428
Published online 03 June 2008
Agron. Sustain. Dev. 28 (2008) 419-428
DOI: 10.1051/agro:2008014

Sorption and leaching of 14C-glyphosate in agricultural soils

Abdul Jabbar Al-Rajab, Samira Amellal and Michel Schiavon

Laboratoire Sols et Environnement, UMR 1120 INPL/ENSAIA-INRA, 2 avenue de la Forêt de Haye, BP 172, 54505 Vandoeuvre-lès-Nancy Cedex, France

Accepted 28 February 2008; published online 3 June 2008

Abstract - Glyphosate (N-(phosphonomethyl)glycine) is one of the most widely used herbicides in the world to control weeds in agricultural and urban areas. Its increasing use requires special attention to its transfer from terrestrial to aquatic environments. However, knowledge on the leaching of glyphosate and its metabolite aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA) is scarce. Here we aimed to assess the dynamic interactions between glyphosate sorption and leaching; and to identify the main factors that influence the two processes in three undisturbed agricultural soils using microlysimeters under outdoor conditions. We studied the sorption, desorption and leaching of 14C-labelled glyphosate on three soils using batch experiments in the laboratory and lysimeters under natural conditions for 11 months. The laboratory results showed that glyphosate was strongly adsorbed, yielding empirical constants of Freundlich sorption isotherms (K$_{\rm f})$ of 16.6 for the clay loam soil, 33.6 for the silt clay loam soil and 34.5 for the sandy loam soil, with n$_{\rm f}$ close to 1 in all three cases. Glyphosate was also weakly desorbed, i.e. 5 to 24% (w) of initially sorbed glyphosate. Sorption and desorption were only pH-dependent. The outdoor results showed that nearly 70% of the initial glyphosate was present in the soil in a non-extractable form at the beginning of the experiment. Conversely, only less than 20% of the initial glyphosate is present in the soil in a non-extractable form after 11 months. These findings suggest that the non-extractable residues become available and take part in biodegradation and leaching. The amounts of 14C-glyphosate derivatives leached were less than 0.28% of the initially applied glyphosate. HPLC analyses showed that the AMPA metabolite generally represented up to 100% of the residues present in the leachates. The results of leaching were highly influenced by the hydrodynamic properties and the biodegradation capacities of the soils. Although glyphosate residues were found in low concentrations in the leachates for almost a year, the contamination of groundwater does not seem to be a concern, regardless of the soil type, if the herbicide is used in accordance with good agricultural practice.

Key words: glyphosate / adsorption / desorption / leaching / sequestration / persistence / soil lysimeters

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© INRA, EDP Sciences 2008