In the present study a branched serial first-order decay (BSFOD) model is presented and used to derive transformation rates describing the decay of a common herbicide, atrazine, and its metabolites observed in unsaturated soils adapted to previous atrazine applications and in soils with no history of atrazine applications. Calibration of BSFOD models for soils throughout the country can reduce the uncertainty, relative to that of traditional models, in predicting the fate and transport of pesticides and their metabolites and thus support improved agricultural management schemes for reducing threats to the environment. Results from application of the BSFOD model to better understand the degradation of atrazine supports two previously reported conclusions: atrazine (6-chloro-N-ethyl-N'-(1-methylethyl)-1,3,5-triazine-2,4-diamine) and its primary metabolites are less persistent in adapted soils than in nonadapted soils; and hydroxyatrazine was the dominant primary metabolite in most of the soils tested. In addition, a method to simulate BSFOD in a one-dimensional solute-transport unsaturated zone model is also presented. ?? 2011 SETAC.