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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Use of Vegetative Furrows to Mitigate Runoff, Soil Erosion, and Copper Levels in Runoff from Fresh-Market Vegetable Production with Polyethylene Mulch

Authors
item Rice, Pamela
item Harman Fetcho, Jennifer
item Teasdale, John
item Sadeghi, Ali
item McConnell, Laura
item Coffman, Charles
item Herbert, Rachel
item Heighton Davies, Lynne
item Hapeman, Cathleen

Submitted to: Journal of Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: August 8, 2003
Publication Date: February 1, 2004
Citation: Rice, P.J., Harman-Fetcho, J.A., Teasdale, J.R., Sadeghi, A.M., McConnell, L.L., Coffman, C.B., Herbert, R., Heighton, L., Hapeman, C.J. 2004. Use of vegetative furrows to mitigate runoff, soil erosion, and copper levels in runoff from fresh-market vegetable production with polyethylene mulch. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 23(3):719-725.

Interpretive Summary: Vegetable producers frequently use plastic mulch to increase soil temperature, to enable earlier planting, and to decrease weeds. Runoff with high sediment loads into adjacent surface waters can have adverse effects on nontarget organisms as a result of increased turbidity and degraded water quality. Previous studies have shown that runoff from vegetable production utilizing plastic mulch may contain up to 35% of the applied copper, a widely used fungicide/bactericide. Copper has been shown to have adverse effects on aquatic organisms. It is primarily transported in runoff with suspended particulates; therefore, implementation of management practices that minimize soil erosion will reduce copper loads. Replacing bare-soil furrows with furrows planted in cereal rye significantly improved the sustainability of vegetable production with plastic mulch and reduced the potential environmental impact of this management practice. Tomato yields were similar between the plastic mulch plots containing either bare-soil or vegetative furrows. Thus, replacing the bare-soil furrows with vegetative furrows greatly reduced the potential negative impacts of the conventional plastic mulch systems, yet crop yields were unaffected allowing growers to have an acceptable economic return.

Technical Abstract: The transport of runoff with high sediment loads into adjacent surface waters may have adverse effects on nontarget organisms as a result of increased turbidity and degraded water quality. Previous studies have shown that runoff from vegetable production utilizing polyethylene mulch may contain up to 35% of the applied copper, a widely used fungicide/bactericide. Copper has been shown to have adverse effects on aquatic organisms. It is primarily transported in runoff with suspended particulates; therefore, implementation of management practices that minimize soil erosion will reduce copper loads. Replacing bare-soil furrows with furrows planted in rye (Secale cereale) significantly improved the sustainability of vegetable production with polyethylene mulch and reduced the potential environmental impact of this management practice. Vegetative furrows decreased runoff volume by more than 40% and soil erosion by more than 80%. Copper loads with runoff were reduced by 72% in 2001, from 34.7% to 9.70% of applied copper, primarily as a result of reduced soil erosion since more than 88% of the total copper loads were transported in runoff with suspended soil particulates. Tomato yields were similar between the polyethylene mulch plots containing either bare-soil or vegetative furrows. Overall, replacing the bare-soil furrows with vegetative furrows greatly reduced potential impacts of sediment and agrochemicals introduced to surface water through runoff from the conventional polyethylene mulch systems, while maintaining crop yields to provide growers with an acceptable economic return.

Last Modified: 4/18/2014
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