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22 Feb 2022

Reducing pesticide transport in surface and subsurface irrigation return flow in specialty crop production

Damon E. Abdi (Michigan State), James S. Owen Jr. (Virginia Tech), P. Christopher Wilson and Francisca O. Hinz (University of Florida), Bert Cregg and R. Thomas Fernandez (Michigan State)

Pesticides are most commonly transported in water. Excess irrigation water returns to the surrounding environment mainly via irrigation return flow (IRF- surface runoff and subsurface infiltration). We investigated irrigation methods (overhead at 0.75 inch/day, and an overhead treatment and a spray stake treatment based on soil moisture sensors) to determine effects on IRF volume and transport of pesticides. Learn about irrigation management practices that effectively limit pesticide movement, particularly highly mobile compounds.

Read the research article here

Description of research activities

A national team of scientists is working to encourage use of alternative water resources by the nation’s billion-dollar nursery and floriculture industry has been awarded funds for the first year of an $8.7 million, five year US Department of Agriculture – National Institute of Food and Agriculture –Specialty Crop Research Initiative competitive grant.

The team will develop and apply systems-based solutions to assist grower decision making by providing science-based information to increase use of recycled water.  This award from the NIFA’s Specialty Crop Research Initiative is managed by Project Director Sarah White of Clemson University.  She leads a group of 21 scientists from nine U.S. institutions.

Entitled “Clean WateR3 - Reduce, Remediate, Recycle – Enhancing Alternative Water Resources Availability and Use to Increase Profitability in Specialty Crops”, the Clean WateR3 team will assist the grower decision-making process by providing science-based information on nutrient, pathogen, and pesticide fate in recycled water both before and after treatment, average cost and return-on investment of technologies examined, and model-derived, site specific recommendations for water management.  The trans-disciplinary Clean WateR3 team will develop these systems-based solutions by integrating sociological, economic, modeling, and biological data into a user-friendly decision-support system intended to inform and direct our stakeholders’ water management decision-making process.

The Clean WateR3 grant team is working with a stakeholder group of greenhouse and nursery growers throughout the United States.

For example, at the University of Florida graduate student George Grant is collecting data on removal of paclobutrazol, a highly persistent plant growth regulator chemical, from recirculated water using granular activated carbon (GAC) filters. This is being done in both research greenhouses and in a commercial site. The GAC filters can remove more than 90% of chemical residues, and are proving to be a cost-effective treatment method.