Enhanced degradation of deethylatrazine in an atrazine-history soil of Iowa

E. L. Arthur, J. C. Anhalt, T. A. Anderson, J. R. Coats

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The degradation of deethylatrazine (DEA), a major metabolite of atrazine, was studied by using radiotracers in soils with two different atrazine histories. DEA degradation was enhanced in soils which had received long-term exposure to atrazine (atrazine-history soil) compared with soils that had not received long-term atrazine exposure (no-history soil). After 60 days of incubation, mineralization of PEA to 14CO2 in the atrazine- history surface soil was twice that in the no-history surface soils, with 34% and 17% of the applied 14C-DEA as CO2, respectively. In surface soils, 25% of the applied 14C remained as DEA in the atrazine-history soil, compared with 35% in the no-history soil. Microbial plate counts indicated an increase in numbers of bacteria and fungi in soils incubated with DEA compared to control soils. No significant difference in total microbial respiration was seen among atrazine-history and no-history soils incubated with DEA, but DEA- treated soils had greater microbial respiration than untreated control soils after 6 days. A 14C-most-probable-number procedure was used to enumerate specific DEA degraders. A greater number of DEA degraders were indicated in atrazine-history subsurface soil compared with all other soils in this study (p < 0.05). From this study, it appears that an increase in microbial activity contributes to decreased persistence and increased degradation of DEA in soils that have had long-term exposure to atrazine at field application rates, compared to soils with no long-term exposure. Decreased persistence of this major metabolite of atrazine in atrazine-history soils is important in that there will be less available for movement in surface runoffs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)599-620
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Environmental Science and Health - Part B Pesticides, Food Contaminants, and Agricultural Wastes
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1997


  • Atrazine
  • Deethylatrazine
  • Deethylhydroxyatrazine
  • Degradation
  • Enhanced degradation
  • Metab olites
  • Persistence


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