Field Study of the Impact of Different Irrigation Practices on Herbicide Leaching.

Ettore Capri, Marco Trevisan, Gabriella Fait, Matteo Balderacchi, Federico Ferrari, Fabrizio Ungaro

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23 Citations (Scopus)


Agricultural practices, such as subsurface drainage, irrigation and tillage,maysignificantly affect pesticide leaching and, consequently, the risk of groundwater contamination. The aim of the present study was to investigate the impact of different irrigation systems on herbicide leaching to shallow groundwater through direct monitoring at the field scale in northern Italy over a 3-year period. Concentrations of the herbicide terbuthylazine (TBA) and its metabolite desethylterbuthylazine (DES) were monitored on 10 farms cropped with maize and irrigated by sprinkler, basin and border systems. Considering the results grouped according to the different irrigation systems, the mean TBA and DES concentrations was lower than the arbitrary non-health based legal limit of 0.1 g/L using sprinkler and border systems, while it was 0.19 and 0.30 g/L respectively for TBA and DES using basin systems. However, since many factors other than the irrigation systems can contribute to pesticide leaching and in a field study it is impossible to discriminate between all the different variables, the concentrations of both compounds were simulated with and without irrigation using the model MACRO 5.1 in order to gain a deeper understanding of the role of irrigation on leaching. First, the groundwater table depth, which was measured daily in all fields, was used to calibrate the model and thus achieve a good soil hydrology calibration. To assess the performance of the model the root mean squared error (RMSE) was used. RMSE ranged from 0.2 to 0.5 m, showing that a satisfactory hydrology calibration was obtained. Afterward, the solutes were modelled and the results showed that under non-irrigated conditions, concentrations of both compounds would be very low. These findings validate the hypothesis that careful selection of agricultural practices, such as the type of irrigation, can reduce pesticide leaching.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)280-287
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean Journal of Agronomy
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • leaching
  • pesticide


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