Assessing Potential Solutions to Mitigate Pollution from Neonicotinoid Seed Coatings

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Virginia Tech


Thiamethoxam and clothianidin are two neonicotinoids used in seed coatings for crops such as corn and soybeans. Both neonicotinoids have high solubility in water, so they are prone to transport via leaching and runoff. This thesis is comprised of two studies that evaluated potential solutions to mitigate neonicotinoid transport from fields. The first study examined the relationship between soil organic carbon content and neonicotinoid transport in a field planted in soybeans. Soils with increased organic carbon leached less thiamethoxam and clothianidin during early growing season leaching peaks; however, at the end of the season, higher organic carbon content only decreased leached mass of clothianidin. The second study was to determine neonicotinoid uptake of different ground covers used as cover crops or edge-of-field buffer strips, as well as the partitioning of thiamethoxam and clothianidin throughout the plants. Ground covers, such as crimson clover, had the highest recovery of applied thiamethoxam, meaning that it may be a good candidate to retain this pesticide in fields. Thiamethoxam and clothianidin concentrations were higher in leaf tissues than in stems or roots, indicating that above-ground biomass removal may be an effective way to reduce neonicotinoid loading in the environment. From these studies, I concluded 1) practices that raise the amount of organic carbon in the soil may help decrease early-season neonicotinoid transport, resulting in lower concentrations in surrounding waterways, and 2) careful selection of plant species, such as crimson clover, may help reduce neonicotinoid transport in the environment, while potentially reducing exposure to beneficial insects.



Thiamethoxam, clothianidin, leaching, runoff, sorption, buffer strips, crimson clover