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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Reducing Insecticide and Fungicide Loads in Runoff from Plastic Mulch with Vegetative-Covered Furrows

Authors
item Rice, Pamela
item Harman Fetcho, Jennifer
item Sadeghi, Ali
item McConnell, Laura
item Coffman, Charles
item Teasdale, John
item Abdul Baki, Aref
item Starr, James
item McCarty, Gregory
item Herbert, Rachel
item Hapeman, Cathleen

Submitted to: Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: October 31, 2006
Publication Date: February 21, 2007
Citation: Rice, P.J., Harman Fetcho, J.A., Sadeghi, A.M., Mcconnell, L.L., Coffman, C.B., Teasdale, J.R., Abdul Baki, A.A., Starr, J.L., Mccarty, G.W., Herbert, R., Hapeman, C.J. 2007. Reducing Insecticide and Fungicide Loads in Runoff from Plastic Mulch with Vegetative-Covered Furrows. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 55:1377-1384.

Interpretive Summary: Polyethylene mulch is used in organic and traditional vegetable production and is gaining popularity because it decreases some pesticide use and warms the soil allowing for earlier crop planting. However its use also increases runoff volume and soil erosion during rain events because 50 to 75% of the field is covered with an impervious surface. Previous studies have shown that runoff from polyethylene mulch can contain soil and pesticide concentrations that would impact adversly non-target aquatic organisms in adjacent surface waters. A field study was conducted to quantify off-site movement of soil and pesticides with runoff from tomato plots managed with the conventional polyethylene-mulch management practice and an alternative management practice. The addition of vegetative furrows to the conventional polyethylene system decreased runoff volume by more than 40%, soil erosion by more than 80%, and pesticide loads by 48 to 74%. The maintained harvest yields and reduced runoff volume, soil loss, and off-site transport of pesticides measured in runoff from the alternative management practice demonstrates the vegetated furrow system is more sustainable and may have a less adverse impact on the environment, while providing growers with an acceptable economic return.

Technical Abstract: A common management practice for the production of fresh-market vegetables utilizes polyethylene (plastic) mulch because it increases soil temperature, decreases weed pressure, maintains soil moisture, and minimizes soil contact with the product. However, rain events afford much more erosion and runoff because 50 to 75% of the field is covered with an impervious surface. A plot study was conducted to compare and to quantify the off-site movement of soil, insecticides, and fungicides associated with runoff from plots planted with Sunbeam tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill) using the conventional polyethylene-mulch management practice versus an alternative management practice – polyethylene mulch-covered beds with cereal rye (Secale cereale) planted in the furrows between the beds. The use of cereal rye-covered furrows with the conventional polyethylene system decreased runoff volume by more than 40%, soil erosion by more than 80%, and pesticide loads by 48 – 74%. Results indicate that vegetative furrows are critical to minimizing the negative aspects of this management practice.

Last Modified: 12/22/2014
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