Organochlorine pesticides in soil under irrigated cotton farming systems in Vertisols of the Namoi Valley, north-western New South Wales, Australia.

PMID 22464189


Organochlorine pesticides (OCPs) such as DDT and DDE have been detected in the surface 0.2m of Vertisols in the lower Namoi Valley of north western New South Wales, Australia even though they have not been applied to crops since 1982. However, their presence in the deeper soil horizons has not been investigated. The objective of this study was to determine if OCPs were present to a depth of 1.2m in Vertisols under irrigated cotton farming systems in the lower Namoi Valley of New South Wales. Soil was sampled from the 0-1.2m depths in three sites, viz. the Australian Cotton Research Institute, ACRI, near Narrabri (149°36'E, 30°12'S), and two cotton farms near Wee Waa (149°27'E, 30°13'S) and Merah North (149°18'E, 30°12'S) in northern New South Wales, Australia. The OCPs detected and their metabolites were α-endosulfan, β-endosulfan, endosulfan sulphate, DDD, DDE, DDT and endrin. The metabolite DDE, a breakdown product of DDT, was the most persistent OCP in all depths analysed. Endosulfan sulphate was the second most persistent followed by endrin>α-endosulfan>β-endosulfan>DDT and DDD. DDT was sprayed extensively in the lower Namoi Valley up to the early 1980s and may explain the persistence of DDE in the majority of soil samples. Dicofol and Dieldrin, two OCPs previously undocumented in Vertisols were also detected. The movement of OCPs into the subsoil of Vertisols may occur when irrigation or rain transports soil colloids and organic matter via preferential flow systems into the deeper layers of a soil profile. Persistence of OCPs was closely correlated to soil organic carbon concentrations. The persistence in soil of OCP's applied to cotton crops grown more than two decades ago suggests that they could enter the food chain. Their presence at depths of 1.2m suggests that they could move into groundwater that may eventually be used for domestic and stock consumption.