Evaluating Agricultural Best Management Practices to Mitigate Neonicotinoid Transport in Water and Soil

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Virginia Tech


The use of agrochemicals, like neonicotinoid insecticides can threaten human and environmental health when they are transported from agricultural fields. To minimize environmental impact of neonicotinoid pesticides to non-target organisms, it is important to quantify the movement of neonicotinoids from agricultural fields and examine how conventional agricultural practices can be altered using best management practices to minimize neonicotinoid transport. We developed a proportional runoff sampler that is inexpensive, rugged, and adaptable to existing runoff quantification systems. The sampler accurately collected flow-weighted samples under a broad range of steady-state and variable flow conditions. We then incorporated the sampler, along with leachate and soil sampling techniques, in a two-year field study testing the effects of winter cover crops and different edge-of-field buffer strip plant types on movement of the neonicotinoid thiamethoxam (TMX) and its metabolite clothianidin (CLO) in treated agricultural fields. Due to dry weather and other complications, runoff and leachate data could not be statistically analyzed. Soil samples indicated that cover crops had no effect on insecticide retention, so cover crops may not be a viable strategy to prevent neonicotinoid transport. Soil TMX was higher in grass buffers than native forb buffers in 2020; however, this result was not repeated in 2021 when vegetative cover was more consistent across treatments. CLO concentration did not vary by buffer in either year. Therefore, buffer strip plant type may have less impact on TMX and CLO retention than other factors like plant density.



water quality, contaminants, erosion, pollutant transport, instrumentation, neonicotinoids, edge-of-field buffer strips, cover crops, corn