Enhanced biodegradation of atrazine at high infiltration rates in agricultural soils
The objective of this study was to assess the persistence and transport of atrazine at high infiltration rates expected from higher intensity precipitation associated with climate change scenarios in the midwestern U.S. The transport and transformation of atrazine was monitored in column experiments at high infiltration rates (64-119 mm/d) associated with increased precipitation intensity. The optimum linear sorption and the lumped Monod biokinetic parameters were determined by inverting observed break-through curves (BTCs) using the advection-dispersion-sorption-biodegradation model. Batch microcosm studies were also conducted to examine the effect of moisture content (5%, 15% and 25%) on atrazine degradation and support the column results. BTCs from both soil types with continuous atrazine input showed a characteristic pattern of a pulse input i.e. lag phase prior to rapid atrazine degradation. The rate of atrazine leaching at higher infiltration rates was not fast enough to counteract the effect of enhanced degradation. Higher infiltration rates enriched the distribution of hydroxyatrazine in the soil profile for sandy loam, but their effect was minimal in loam soil. The pattern of degradation obtained in batch microcosms agreed with the column results. In both soils, mean half-life of atrazine was lower (4-8 days) at high soil moisture contents. Under future climate change scenarios, where more intense precipitation is likely to result in higher infiltration rates and increased soil moisture, the potential for groundwater pollution from atrazine may be reduced, especially in areas with a long history of atrazine application to soil.