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Determining Potential for Microbial Atrazine Degradation in Agricultural Drainage Ditches

Tyler, Heather L., Khalid, Sheza, Jackson, Colin R., Moore, Matthew T.
Journal of environmental quality 2013 v.42 no.3 pp. 828
agricultural runoff, agricultural soils, agricultural watersheds, atrazine, biodegradation, drainage channels, genes, land use, microbial communities, polymerase chain reaction, sediments, soil microorganisms, soil sampling
Passage of agricultural runoff through vegetated drainage ditches has been shown to reduce the amount of pesticides, such as atrazine, exiting out of agricultural watersheds. Previous studies have found that microbial communities in soil from fields treated with atrazine display enhanced rates of atrazine degradation. However, no studies have examined the potential for atrazine degradation in ditches used to drain these lands. The purpose of the current study was to determine the potential of the drainage ditch soil microbial community for atrazine degradation. Soil samples were collected from fields and adjacent drainage ditches and from nonagricultural land with no previous exposure to atrazine. Polymerase chain reaction analysis indicated widespread presence of atrazine degradation genes in fields and ditches. Potential for degradation was determined by following the decrease of atrazine in spiked soil samples over a 28-d incubation period. Greater than 95% of atrazine was degraded in field and ditch soils, whereas only 68.5 ± 1.3% was degraded in the nonagricultural control. Comparison with autoclaved soil samples indicated the primary mechanism of atrazine degradation in agricultural soils was microbially mediated, whereas its breakdown in nonagricultural soil appeared to be the byproduct of abiotic processes. Therefore, microbial communities in drainage ditch sediments have the potential to play a role in atrazine removal from agricultural runoff by breaking down atrazine deposited in sediments and limiting the amount of this herbicide carried into downstream ecosystems.