Antecedent and Post-Application Rain Events Trigger Glyphosate Transport from Runoff-Prone Soils

Brian K. Richards*, Steven Pacenka, Michael T. Meyer, Julie E. Dietze, Anna L. Schatz, Karin Teuffer, Ludmilla Aristilde, Tammo S. Steenhuis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Recent environmental surveys report widespread detections of the herbicide glyphosate [N-(phosphonomethyl)glycine] in surface waters, despite its strong immobilization and rapid biodegradation in soils. We performed four high-frequency sampling campaigns (from 2015 to 2017) following controlled spray applications on an experimental perennial grass field site with wetness-prone marginal soils. We monitored dissolved glyphosate concentrations in the outflow (runoff and shallow drainage) using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays. Rainfall-triggered outflow events occurred between 3 and 13 days following spray application. Outflow concentrations varied widely from nondetectable levels to 90 μg L-1, peaking during the first significant outflow event in each campaign and diminishing as flows subsided. Subsequent outflow peaks caused concentrations to increase again but to a lesser extent. Cumulative mass efflux in outflow across the different campaigns ranged from 0.06 to 1.0% of applied glyphosate. Cumulative glyphosate losses in the outflow were not associated with total rainfall during the postspray sampling period, but rather with soil hydrologic conditions at the time of spraying as reflected by the 7 day cumulative prespray rainfall, with wetter antecedent conditions favoring greater cumulative mobilization. Avoiding spraying under such conditions may mitigate potential glyphosate mobilization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)249-254
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology Letters
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 8 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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