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Most herbicides applied to crops are adsorbed by plants or transformed (degraded) in the soil, but small fractions are lost from fields and either move to streams in overland runoff, near surface flow, or subsurface drains, or they infiltrate slowly to ground water. Herbicide transformation products (TPs) can be more or less mobile and more or less toxic in the environment than their source herbicides. To obtain information on the concentrations of selected herbicides and TPs in surface waters of the Midwestern United States, 151 water samples were collected from 71 streams and five reservoir outflows in 1998. These samples were analyzed for 13 herbicides and 10 herbicide TPs. Herbicide TPs were found to occur as frequently or more frequently than source herbicides and at concentrations that were often larger than their source herbicides. Most samples contained a mixture of more than 10 different herbicides or TPs. The ratios of TPs to herbicide concentrations can be used to determine the source of herbicides in streams. Results of a two-component mixing model suggest that on average 90 percent or more of the herbicide mass in Midwestern streams during early summer runoff events originates from the runoff and 10 percent or less comes from increased ground water discharge.
Additional Publication Details
Herbicides and transformation products in surface waters of the Midwestern United States
Journal of the American Water Resources Association