THE INFLUENCE OF SOIL TYPE AND TILLAGE SYSTEM ON SELECTED
Ing. Štefan TÓTH, PhD., Ing. Martin DANILOVIČ, PhD.
Slovak Centre of Agricultural Research – Institute of Agroecology
Špitalska 1273, 071 01 Michalovce, Slovak Republic
Lot of original scientific works deals with the herbicides fate depending up tillage practice
(1, 2, 3, 4, 5). The tillage affects the soil environment strongly, so it is allowed to be a factor
influencing the herbicidal fate strongly. Despite of mentioned investigation general enclosures
formulation is difficult, by reason that there were exist various ways of tillage and
heterogeneity of trials conditions (4). More studies have documented soil characteristics such
as organic carbon (6), pH (7), texture (8), nutrient content (9), soil moisture (10), microbial
population (11) and theirs impact on herbicide interaction with soil. Several long-term studies
documented the great importance of climatic factors such as temperature and humidity (4).
Several studies evaluate effect of farming practice on herbicide fate (12,13 and another) at
which number of works dealt with annual observation (e.g. 14, 15). The effect of weather
conditions and particular farming practice result in local unique fate of herbicides, including
the effect of herbucides residues on cultivated crops (16). There is a few studies of herbicidal
fate in conditions of Central Europe (14, 15), eventually there is no studies of impact of
tillage, despite of large effort devoted to study of herbicides behaviour.
Material and methods
The field experiment with five herbicides (terbuthylazine, dicamba, metribuzin, S-
metolachlor and acetochlor) was carried out at two localities, resp. at two soil types at East
Slovak Lowland. Herbicides fate were observing at tree variants of soil tillage and were
evaluating in two soil layers. The trial at locality Milhostov (Gleyic Fluvisol – GF) was
established during the years 2005 – 2007 and the trial at lokality Vysoká nad Uhom (Eutric
Fluvisol – EF) was established just one year (2005).
The list of observed factors are presented in the next table.
Table Observed factors
Factor Factor level
Gleyic Fluvisol (GF) – locality Milhostov
Soil type - locality
Eutric Fluvisol (EF) – locality Vysoká nad Uhom
No–till (NT) - direct sowing by special drill machines Great Plains and Kinnze 2000
Reduced tillage (RT) - shallow soil cultivation, pressowing harrowing, sowing by drill
Soil tillage machines Great Plains and Kinnze 2000
Conventional tillage (CT) - stubble breaking + deep ploughing, presowing harrowing,
sowing by drill machines Great Plains and Kinnze 2000
at Gleyic Fluvisol: terbuthylazine (maize), dicamba (spring barley), metribuzin
(soya), S-metolachlor (field bean), acetochlor (sunflower)
at Eutric Fluvisol: terbuthylazine (maize), dicamba (spring barley), metribuzin
(soya), S-metolachlor (field pea), acetochlor (sunflower)
topsoil (top.): 0.05 – 0.30 m
subsoil (sub.): 0.50 – 0.60 m
The field trials is established by the block method. There is 10 blocks, resp. 10 plots of
crop rotation (10 crop rotation). Three variants of tillage are established at each block and
variants are repeated four times. Herbicidal experiment was establishing just at 5 blocks
(crops). Block area is 1.5 ha and area of herbicidal variant was 56 m2 (8 x 7 m).
Tested herbicides were applied to soil surface without incorporation, eventually foliar
application was used in some cases. Herbicides were applied at registered doses and water
volume was 300 l.ha-1. Herbicides doses, date of application as well as details of high
detection parameters of residual analyses are presented in the table I. Other ecological
parameters of herbicides are shown in table II. Soil samples were sampled at the end of
September till early in Okctober.
Tab. I. Herbicide doses, date of application and details of high detection parameters of
Trademark / active Dose 2005 2006 2007
[kg, resp. Analytical method /
compound (% of
l ha ] GF EF GF GF detector / kv. l. / det. l.
2.5 10 May 9 May 12 May 20 April GC / MS / 0.016
Dual Gold 960 EC /
1.4 14 April 14 April 24 April 16 March GC / ECD / 0.01 / 0.008
Sencor 70 WP /
1 10 May 10 May 4 May 24 April GC / ECD / 0.005 / 0.002
Click 500 /
3 10 May 9 May 12 May 23 April GC / ECD / 0.005 / 0.002
Banvel 480 S /
0.125 8 June 15 June 12 May 23 April HPLC / DAD / 0.01 / 0.009
GC – gas chromatography, HPLC – high- performance liquid chromatograph, MS – mass detector, ECD –
electron capture detector, DAD – diode array detector, kv. l. – limit of kvantification, det. l. – limit of detection
Tab. II. Selected ecological parameters of active compounds (17, 18)
Vapour period of Groundwater Absorption
Active compound pressure decomposiotion ubility score coefficient
20°C [GUS] [mg g-1 ]
[mg l-1 ]
in soil DT50
acetochlor 400 223 14 (13) 1.94 203
S-metolachlor 3.7 480 22 (21) 0.76 2261
metribuzin 0.121 1165 19 (40) 2.57 37.9
terbuthylazine 0.15 8.5 46 (45) 2.74 220
dicamba 1.67 5500 14 (12) 3.31 13
According to the measured herbicide residues content (tab. III.) there were significant
differences among the solved soil types, the tillage systems, the soil layers as well as
herbicides themself. However acetochlor and S-metolachlor negative all findings being meant
no possiblity of statistical valuation, their remained causality can be objected. The valuation
of dicamba, metribuzin and terbuthylazine is more difficult.
We had been observing two soil types in the year 2005 and one soil type in the year 2006
and 2007. There was a great difference of temperature and precipitation between the years.
Weather conditions were abnormal, mainly in 2005 and 2007. Weather conditions were
abnormal and heavy simulative but make harder interpretation of results.
Trail in 2005
In the preface it is necessary to note an environmental impact. On both localities untill the
fifth day after application of acetochlor, metribuzin, S-metolachlor and terbuthylazine there
was no day with rain over 3.6 mm. Concerning the application of dicamba the great amount
of precipitations 36.8 mm (9 June) and 12.4 mm (10 June) occured immediately a day after,
that caused a deluge and subsequently run-off at heavy clay Gleyic Fluvisol. Similarly 39.5
mm (9 June), respectively next 8.8 mm (10 June) of precipitations fallen without any deluge
effect at sandy loam medium Eutric Fluvisol where the dicamba application was made in
a week after the storm rainfall event when conditions were optimal.
Consequently with the mentioned environmental event the fate of dicamba was influenced
by deluge at GF. We measured less dicamba residues at heavy clay soil in comparison to
sandy loam medium soil, in contradictiory with metribuzin and terbuthylazine residues. There
were measured more metribuzin and terbuthylazine residues at Gleyic Fluvisol in comparison
to Eutric Fluvisol. The higher metribuzin and terbuthylazine content at clay heavy soil
corresponds to the herbicide higher organic carbon sorption constant in one breath with higher
sorption capacity of GF as EF. There is higher sorption capacity at clay heavy soil than at
sandy loam medium soil, as well as stronger terbuthylazine than metribuzin sorption potential.
In general the dicamba, metribuzin and terbuthylazine residues content was on regularly
higher level at topsoil in comparison to followed subsoil layer, however in the case of
metribuzin and terbuthylazine there were no differences at EF followed soil layers. The higher
terbuthylazine than metribuzin residues content at GF subsoil corresponding to leaching
potential of herbicide. The less dicamba residues content at GF, including both followed
topsoil and subsoil layer, then at EF ones can be partially the result of the run-off effect
caused by deluge. Among solved herbicides dicamba there are more leachingable, that agrees
with its the highest subsoil residue values at EF.
The valuation of dicamba, metribuzin and terbuthylazine residues according to the tillage
system brings no uniformal effect of the used agrotechnique single impact or interaction
impact of the agrotechnique on followed soil types. Concerning the tillage systems impact it is
remarkable the fact that at the soil sampling we exlude the upper topsoil (0-5 cm) that include
crop residues on soil surface. In the case of dicamba there was the highest residue amount at a
conventionall tillage, less at no-till technology and the least at reduced agrotechnique in
general. This general trend was valid for EF, but at GF the position of the conventional tillage
and no-till technology was changed. The status of dicamba residues founded at Gleyic
Fluvisol is probably secondary, result of deluge. Higher amounts of dicamba residues at
notillage as at conventional tillage fonded at GF, were probably caused by precipitations one
day after herbicide aplication. On the contrary, content of residues founded at EF was higher
at convetional tillage as at notillage. There were no precipitations several day after dicamba
In the case of metribuzin and terbuthylazine residues valuation according to the tillage
systems it is notable that at the EF it was only one measurable content, i.e. terbuthylazine in
the topsoil at no-tillage. That fact is completely conformable with higher organic carbon
sorption constant of terbuthylazine in comparison to metribuzine´s one and by the same way
with the lower activity of processes of organica matter mineralisation axpected at NT.
The status of metribuzin and terbuthylazine residues content at GF topsoil and subsoil
according to the observed tillage systems were similar to each other, and probably were
affected by above mentioned deluge occurred approximately a month after these herbicides
application. Lower content and distribution of residues of metribuzin than terbuthylazine
correlates with shorter half-life period of metribuzine in contrariety to higher half-life period
of terbuthylazine. The mobility of terbuthylazine is higher despite of higher sorption potencial
and correlates with longer persistzance.
Tab. III. The herbicides residues content in soil according to soil type and variants of tillage system and soil
Soil Residue content in the soil [mg kg-1]
Year Tillage Soil layer
type acetochlor dicamba metribuzin S-metolachlor terbuthylazine
top. < 0.016 0.250 0.003 < 0.008 0.010
sub. < 0.016 0.070 < 0.002 < 0.008 0.005
top. < 0.016 0.160 0.003 < 0.008 0.023
sub. < 0.016 < 0.010 < 0.002 < 0.008 0.010
top. < 0.016 0.645 < 0.002 < 0.008 0.006
sub. < 0.016 < 0.010 < 0.002 < 0.008 0.007
top. < 0.016 0.950 < 0.002 < 0.008 < 0.002
sub. < 0.016 0.200 < 0.002 < 0.008 < 0.002
top. < 0.016 0.300 < 0.002 < 0.008 < 0.002
sub. < 0.016 0.025 < 0.002 < 0.008 < 0.002
top. < 0.016 0.300 < 0.002 < 0.008 0.008
sub. < 0.016 0.035 < 0.002 < 0.008 < 0.002
top. < 0.016 < 0.009 0.003 < 0.008 0.051
sub. < 0.016 0.993 < 0.002 < 0.008 0.014
top. < 0.016 0.045 < 0.002 < 0.008 0.056
2006 GF RT
sub. < 0.016 0.206 < 0.002 < 0.008 0.009
top. < 0.016 0.023 < 0.002 < 0.008 0.018
sub. < 0.016 0.165 < 0.002 < 0.008 0.003
top. < 0.016 < 0.009 < 0.002 < 0.008 0.038
sub. < 0.016 < 0.009 < 0.002 < 0.008 0.009
top. < 0.016 < 0.009 0.006 < 0.008 0.048
2007 GF RT
sub. < 0.016 < 0.009 < 0.002 < 0.008 0.009
top. < 0.016 < 0.009 < 0.002 < 0.008 0.005
sub. < 0.016 < 0.009 < 0.002 < 0.008 0.002
Trial in 2006 and 2007
We present that precipitations were under the 4.6 mm during 5 days after application of
herbicides in the year 2006 and 2007, except metribuzin in 2006. It was raining (6.8 mm) one
day after metribuzin aplication in 2006. Average year temperatures showed that both years
were above the average. Wet character had most of months in 2006, besides dry august, while
the year 2007 was arid, except for September. When we ignore weather in September 2007
(very high amount of precipitation) we can state according to hydrotermic coefficient that
year 2007 was abnormally arid. Precipitation had storm character in September 2007, it was
raining in three rates for a period of four days (43.5 mm – 4th September, 20.7 mm – 5th
September, 15.4 – 17th September and 21.2 mm – 27th September).
Residue analyses of acetochlor and S-metolachlor were negative in years 2006 and 2007
analogous to 2005. There was found similar phenomenon in case of metribuzin in the year
2006 and 2007. Measurable content of residues of metribuzin were found at the top layer of
soil at reduced tillage in both mentioned years. Average content was near by detection limit in
the year 2006, while the content was three times higher in the year 2007. Metribuzin was not
detected at notillage and conventional tillage in both soil depths.
In the event of dicamba herbicide we found higher values of residues in the soil in the
year 2006 than in the year 2005, whereas most of soil samples were negative in the year 2007.
Interesting investigation is, that higher values of residues of dicamba herbicide were detected
in subsoil than in topsoil in 2006. It is keeping with the highest mobility of dicamba in
comparison with others tested herbicides. The reason why we did not found of dicamba
residues in 2007 is fact, that herbicide was aplicated 45 day earlier than in the year 2005, and
also particularity of heavy soil – preference flow by the soil cracks especialy in the year 2007.
In the event of terbuthylazine we detected higher values of residues in the year 2006
compare with 2007, it was found in the topsoil and subsoil too. Detected content of residues
of terbuthylazine in 2006 and 2007 exceed residues values detected in 2005. While
distribution of residues of terbuthylazine according to soil layers relate with high sorption,
higher content relate with higher persistence of herbicide.
We can give reasons of fate of acetochlor and S-metolachlor in despite of negative finding
in the soil. Negative findings of acetochlor relates with high presure of vapour. Acetochlor
placement reduce losses by evaporation that is why we have a soft spot for mentioned way of
application. Negative findings of S-metolachlor relates with high limit of detection and
quantification and with date of application. S-metolachlor was applied 14th April 2005, 24th
April 2006 and 16th March 2007. It was applied about a month earlier than acetochlor,
terbuthylazine and metribuzin and approximately two months earlier than dicamba in 2005. In
2006 was S-metolachlor applied one decade before metribuzin and almost two decades before
terbuthylazine, acetochlor and dicamba, while in 2007 one month before acetochlor and one
month and decade before terbuthylazine, dicamba and metribuzin application.
Fate evaluation of dicamba, metribuzin and terbuthylazine is much difficult. Measured
amounts of residues are indicative of important role of chemical and physical soil properties
as well as clear atmospheric exposure soon after the application, resp. influence of total
weather conditions. Fate of herbicides e.g. terbuthylazine relates with content of clay
minerals, organic matter and pH value (19). Our results confirm higher metribuzine and
terbuthylazine residues level in the soil with higher content of clay particles and organic
matter. Herbicide fixation provide protection from escape by runoff or leaching and microbial
degradation as the main source of degradation. (9, 20, 21, 8, 10, 6 and many others). The
herbicides metribuzin and terbuthylazine, either applied a month before dicamba at GF in
2005, were protect for escape during deluge by fixation, while dicamba manifest mobility.
Lover content of terbuthylazine at EF in 2005 and lover till no content of metribuzin at GF
and EF in 2005 till 2007 is probably result of higher activity of microorganisms, lower
sorption capacity of sandy-loamy soil (medium hard), perhaps even result of earlier term of
Dicamba residues were evidently distorted by deluge in 2005, while status in 2006 can be
“normal”. Dicamba residues content in 2007 can be the result of earlier application and
primarily result of the storm rainfalls in September followed by arid spring and summer.
Dicamba was probably lost by leaching as water moves it down through soil macroporuses,
soil cracks arose during long term dry season. Clay minerals bulking and shrinkage is the
particularity of hard soils. We supposed that the soil cracks allowed preferential flow into the
deeper soil layers as monitored layer 50 – 60 cm. We do not suppose favourable microbial
degradation in the arid and hot weather conditions in 2007. According to Zhou et al. (22) the
soil microbial activity is higher in the warmths and dampy soil with pH around neutral value.
The values of hydrotermic coefficient explicitly show evidence of intensity of microbial
activity and high degradation of herbicides at EF in 2005.
The most explicit results of the trial, not only in the case of dicamba were obtained from
the valuation of soil layers. The relation between dicamba, metribuzin and terbuthylazine
residues correlates with the herbicides mobility. We found that terbuthylazine was the most
persistent. Despite expressive sorption potencial of terbuthylazine (19) it can be transported to
the water reservoirs (23). Delphin and Chapot (24) present high horizontal variability of
concentration of atrazine, metolachlor and diuron depending up on the depth of herbicide
placement in the soil solution of alluvial loamy soil. Herbicide placement together with
cloddy strukture of top soil conduced to increase possibility of leakage. The heterogeneity
was evaluate by the authors as the opportunity for water flow so there was a higher risk of
ground water contamination. Standard deviation of herbicides residues content was influenced
by mentioned heterogeneity.
Different impact of tillage on dicamba, metribuzin and terbuthylazine residues content in
the soil interrelated with the herbicides mobility and intenzity of degradation (persistence).
Intensity of herbicides leaching, resp. outflow depends on intensity and distribution of
precipitation. Thete were different weather conditions during research period. It was found
that weather attack is influenced by the tillage. Myers et al. (25) found that conventional
tillage create conditions for smaller surface outflow, at once-and smaller herbicide leak as
compared to no-till with and without postharvest remains of maize. It was found at water
application rate 12.7 mm per hour and also at 50.8 mm per hour. The water was applicated 30
minutes after the use of herbicides atrazine and metolachlor. Lower values of outflow under
conventional tillage generally resulted in higher concentrations of chemicals in the soil.
According to tillage treatments the differences occured primarily in the soil layer 0 – 15 cm.
Our results, associated with dicamba at GF in 2005, indicates higher leaching at
conventional tillage in comparison to reduced tillage and no-till. It was also found that the
highest dicamba outlow at reduced tillage. Sume of precipitation after dicamba application at
GF in 2005 was higher than water application rate simulated in experiment of Myers at al.
(25). Our results corresponds to Gaynor et al. (26) conclusions in the study on herbicides with
different mobility potencial (atrazine and metolachlor). Authors found that no-till farming
changed the sourse of mobility in compare with conventional tillage, but the major impact in
term of herbicides losses had environmental factors after herbicides used. Plant residues are
able to fix some herbicides. Dao (21) found that addition of straw increased organic carbon
concentrations in the surface layers of soil at no-till and consequently retention of metribuzin
increased two- to fivefold. According to Myers et al. (25) the highest concentrations of
chemicals at conventional tillage as weel as notillage are in the soil layer 0 – 7.5 cm. Authors
also found that impact of tillage on herbicides concentrations was mainly in the soil layer 0 –
15 cm. Vertical leak out of dicamba throught the earthworm channels is higher evently at
notillage if it is raining one day after herbicides use and rain is intensive (38.6 mm 9th June
2005 at GF). Reduction of mentioned vertical leak at notillage at GF relate probably with one
day delay of intensive rain. Vertical leak reduction was probably influenced also by low rain
on the same day of herbicide use (0.7 mm 8th June 2005 at GF).
Finally the tillage systems influence on the degradation of herbicides. According to
Gaston and Locke (27) the herbicides degradation is faster in the surface layers in compare
with deeper layers of soil and is faster at conventional tillage in compare with notillage. In
compliance with Hang et al (28) study of atrazine behaviour in the soil at no-till, only in a few
isolated cases the faster herbicide degradation is in deeper soil layers than in the surface
layers. Dao (20) found unbalanced degradation of metribuzin and S-ethylmetribuzin due to
slow herbicide release fixated in the crop residues. Straw affinity is able to reduce efficiency
of herbicides that were activated in the soil, if they were applied into soil surface at no-till.
Our observations and results confirm the strong tillage impact on herbicide behaviour, that
is affected by soil type, though determined by weather conditions. Dominant impact of
weather affecting herbicides fate in step with environmental parameters of herbicides. Soil
tillage as only one from observed factors may be used to manage the herbicides efficiency.
Incorrect interaction of soil tillage and herbicide raise undesirable pollution of environment.
According to the recent changes in soil tillage management is necessary to declare herbicides
fate at environment in relation to tillage.
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The study compares the results of investigation of acetochlor (GC/MS), dicamba
(HPLC/DAD), metribuzin (GC/ECD), S-metolachlor (GC/ECD) and terbuthylazine
(GC/ECD) fate from topsoil (5-30 cm) and subsoil (50-60 cm) samples according to no-till
technology (NT), reduced agrotechnique (RA) and conventional tillage (CT). The long-term
stationary field trial was established on Gleyic Fluvisol (GF) and Eutric Fluvisol (EF) and
valuated data come from the environmental conditions of 2005-2007, from Central European
East Slovakian Lowland. All acetochlor and S-metolachlor residual analyses were negative
findings, what is connected mainly with high vapour pressure or with high detection limit
respectively. Dicamba, metribuzin and terbuthylazine residue content in soil was dependent
on the used tillage system enhanced or delayed by soil conditions and actually determined by
weathering. From herbicide own environmental fate parameters it was dominantly
demonstrated the mobility concerning dicamba and sorption concerning terbuthylazine.
However the greatest dicamba vertical movement was expected at NT when high-intensity
rainfall occurred one day after it´s application concerning GF in 2005 invoking deluge event,
the leaching was reduced by a delay in rainfall and by low-intensity events prior to high
intensity. Relations between dicamba residues content according agrotechnique variants
indicate the source of escape altering, especially leaching and surface run-off relevant for CT
and NT. In 2006 at normal weathering conditions there was higher dicamba content in
subsoil in comparing to topsoil, valid for each of three solved agrotechnique variants. Arid
spring and summer conditions in 2007 formed soil cracks on heavy clay soil and subsequently
humid September apparently resulted leaching at NT on GF. The higher metribuzin and
terbuthylazine content at GF corresponds to the herbicide own higher organic carbon sorption
constant in one breath with higher sorption capacity of GF as EF. In general there was the
highest tebuthylazine residues conten on RA, less on CT and the least on NT.
Keywords: tillage system, soil type, herbicide, residue
Ing. Štefan TÓTH, PhD., Ing. Martin DANILOVIČ, PhD., Slovak Centre of Agricultural
Research – Institute of Agroecology, Michalovce, Špitalska 1273, 071 01 Michalovce, Slovak
Republic, e-mail: email@example.com