Environmental science & technology

Volatilization modeling of two herbicides from soil in a wind tunnel experiment under varying humidity conditions.

PMID 23130847


Volatilization of pesticides from the bare soil surface is drastically reduced when the soil is under dry conditions (i.e., water content lower than the permanent wilting point). This effect is caused by the hydrated mineral surfaces that become available as additional sorption sites under dry conditions. However, established volatilization models do not explicitly consider the hydrated mineral surfaces as an independent sorption compartment and cannot correctly cover the moisture effect on volatilization. Here we integrated the existing mechanistic understanding of sorption of organic compounds to mineral surfaces and its dependence on the hydration status into a simple volatilization model. The resulting model was tested with reported experimental data for two herbicides from a wind tunnel experiment under various well-defined humidity conditions. The required equilibrium sorption coefficients of triallate and trifluralin to the mineral surfaces, K(min/air), at 60% relative humidity were fitted to experimental data and extrapolated to other humidity conditions. The model captures the general trend of the volatilization in different humidity scenarios. The results reveal that it is essential to have high quality input data for K(min/air), the available specific surface area (SSA), the penetration depth of the applied pesticide solution, and the humidity conditions in the soil. The model approach presented here in combination with an improved description of the humidity conditions under dry conditions can be integrated into existing volatilization models that already work well for humid conditions but still lack the mechanistically based description of the volatilization process under dry conditions.