The transport potential of the herbicide atrazine (2-chloro-4-ethyl-6-isopropyl-s-triazine) through a 1-meter-thick root zone of corn (Zea mays L.) in a silty-loam soil in Kansas was estimated for a 22-year period (1972-93) using the one-dimensional water-flow and solute-transport model LEACHM. Results demonstrate that, for this soil, atrazine transport is directly related to the amount and timing of rain that follows spring applications of atrazine. Two other critical transport factors were important in wet years -  variability in atrazine application rate, and  atrazine degradation rates below the root zone. Results demonstrate that the coincidence of heavy rain soon after atrazine application can cause herbicide to move below the rooting zone into depths at which biodegradation rates are assumed to be low but are often unknown. Atrazine that reaches below the rooting zone and persists in the underlying soil can subsequently be transported into ground water as soil water drains, typically after the growing season. A frequency analysis of atrazine concentrations in subsurface drainage, combined with field data, demonstrates the relative importance of critical transport factors and confirms a need for definitive estimates of atrazine-degradation rates below the root zone. The analysis indicates that periodic leaching of atrazine can be expected for this soil when rainfall that exceeds 20 cm/mo coincides with atrazine presence in soil.
Additional publication details
Estimation of the Potential for Atrazine Transport in a Silt Loam Soil