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Ecotoxicological assessment of the herbicide Winner Top and its active substances—are the other formulants truly inert?

Queirós, Libânia, Vidal, Tânia, Nogueira, António J. A., Gonçalves, Fernando J. M., Pereira, Joana Luísa
Ecotoxicology 2018 v.27 no.7 pp. 945-955
Chlorella vulgaris, Lemna gibba, Lemna minor, Selenastrum capricornutum, active ingredients, additive effect, ecotoxicology, freshwater ecosystems, growth inhibitors, human health, macrophytes, microalgae, models, nicosulfuron, nontarget organisms, plant protection, protective effect, terbuthylazine, toxicity, weeds, Portugal
Formulants used in Plant Protection Products (PPPs) to promote their efficiency are normally undisclosed in the PPP documentation, unless they bear a human health or environmental hazardous potential per se. PPP regulation also demands the assessment of putative interactions among formulants within each product recipe and consequent effects, but these results are often unavailable. Such a case is that of the herbicide Winner Top (Selectis®, Portugal), which we selected as a model commercial formulation in the present study specifically aiming at (i) characterising its aquatic toxicity towards sensitive eco-receptors (Raphidocelis subcapitata, Chlorella vulgaris, Lemna minor and Lemna gibba), as well as that of its active substances (a.s.) nicosulfuron and terbuthylazine; (ii) comparing the ecotoxicity among the commercial formulation, the corresponding mixture of its a.s. and this a.s.’s mixture increasingly enriched with the formulants. Single chemical testing revealed that terbuthylazine was the strongest microalgae growth inhibitor and nicosulfuron was the strongest macrophyte growth inhibitor. On the other hand, the commercial formulation was consistently less toxic than the corresponding mixture of the a.s., suggesting that Winner Top formulants (72.9% of the commercial formulation) interact with the a.s., promoting less than additive effects in the selected non-target species. Importantly, this environmentally protective effect of the formulation can be apparent. Because macrophytes share most physiological features with the weeds targeted by the studied herbicide, it is likely that increased application doses are required to reach desired efficacy levels with the consequent detrimental increase of PPP residues load in edge-of-field freshwater ecosystems.