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Runoff loss of pesticides and soil: a comparison between vegetative mulch and plastic mulch in vegetable production systems

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Current vegetable production systems use polyethylene (plastic) mulch and require multiple applications of agrochemicals. During rain events, runoff from vegetable production is enhanced because 50 to 75% of the field is covered with an impervious surface. This study was conducted to quantify off-site movement of soil and pesticides with runoff from tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) plots containing polyethylene mulch and a vegetative mulch, hairy vetch (Vicia villosa Roth). Side-by-side field plots were instrumented with automated flow meters and samplers to measure and collect runoff, which was filtered, extracted, and analyzed to determine soil and pesticide loss. Seasonal losses of two to four times more water and at least three times as much sediment were observed from plots with polyethylene mulch (55.4 to 146 L m-2 and 247 to 535 g m-2, respectively) versus plots with hairy vetch residue (13.7 to 75.7 L m-2 and 32.8 to 118 g m-2, respectively). Geometric means (+/-standard deviation) of total pesticide loads for chlorothalonil (tetrachloroisophthalonitrile) and alpha- and beta-endosulfan (6,7,8,9,10,10-hexachloro-1,5,5a,6,9, 9a-hexahydro-6,9-methano-2,4,3-benzodioxathiepin 3-oxide) for a runoff event were 19, 6, and 9 times greater from polyethylene (800 +/- 4.6, 17.6 +/- 3.9, and 39.1 +/- 4.9 microgram m-2, respectively) than from hairy vetch mulch plots (42 +/- 6.0, 2.8 +/- 5.0, and 4.3 +/- 4.6 microgram m-2, respectively) due to greater concentrations and larger runoff volumes. The increased runoff volume, soil loss, and off-site loading of pesticides measured in runoff from the polyethylene mulch suggests that this management practice is less sustainable and may have a harmful effect on the environment.
Rice, P.J. , McConnell, L.L. , Heighton, L.P. , Sadeghi, A.M. , Isensee, A.R. , Teasdale, J.R. , Abdul-Baki, A.A. , Harman-Fetcho, J.A. , Hapeman, C.J.
Includes references
Journal of environmental quality Sept/Oct 2001. v. 30 (5)
Journal Articles, USDA Authors, Peer-Reviewed
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