Use of vegetated agricultural drainage ditches to decrease pesticide transport from tomato and alfalfa fields in California, USA



Irrigation and storm water runoff from agricultural fields has the potential to cause impairment to downstream aquatic receiving systems. Over the last several years, scientists have discovered the benefit of using edge-of-field practices, such as vegetated agricultural drainage ditches, in the mitigation of pesticides and sediment. After demonstrating this practice's feasibility in California, field trials were initiated to document irrigation runoff pesticide mitigation in California alfalfa and tomato fields. In the alfalfa field, chlorpyrifos concentration was decreased by 20% from the inflow to the ditch outflow. Thirty-two percent of the measured chlorpyrifos mass was associated with ditch plant material. In the tomato field, permethrin concentration was decreased by 67% and there was a 35% reduction in suspended sediment concentration from inflow to the ditch outflow. When surface water was not present in the ditch systems, the sediment was a significant repository for pesticides. Based on the field trials, vegetated agricultural drainage ditches can be successfully used as part of a suite of management practices to reduce pesticide and sediment runoff into aquatic receiving systems. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2011; 30:1044–1049. © 2011 SETAC