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NY State Pesticide Research

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New York State Pesticide Monitoring Project

Since 2002, Cornell University and the Soil and Water Lab have implemented a pesticide monitoring program for selected private wells in upstate New York. This project is conducted at the request of the NYS DECís Bureau of Pesticides Management, in response to evidence gathered during the 1990ís showing widespread trace contaminations of several popular pesticides (almost always at trace levels below drinking water standards). As of 2010 the Soil and Water Lab has studied sites in Cortland, Schenectady, Orange, Cayuga, Genesee, and Wayne counties.


Pesticide Use in New York State

Project work involves travelling across the state to collect well water samples. We determine pesticide concentrations in the samples using Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assays (ELISA) kits. Using ELISA, we can detect very low levels of pesticide residues in water samples. Results have been encouraging so far, with none of the 200 wells tested to date exceeding any drinking water or environmental standards for pesticides.

For more information about this project, including county summaries, completed county reports, and briefing presentations, please explore our in-depth pesticide pages.

Soil and Water Lab people working on this project: Steve Pacenka, Cedric Mason.



Atrazine and Biochar Ė Can We Use Biochar to Reduce Atrazine Leaching to Groundwater?

The herbicide atrazine is both widely used in the United States and persistent in the environment, making atrazine contamination of groundwater a real environmental and human health problem. Atrazine can act as an endocrine disrupting compound, so understanding how atrazine enters the groundwater and developing ways to reduce the amount of contamination are important efforts. One of the projects in the soil and water lab is investigating the possibility of using the soil amendment called biochar to reduce atrazine leaching into groundwater.


Biochar and Atrazine Field Plots

Biochar is an agricultural soil amendment that resembles charcoal and is gaining popularity both as a means of improving soil quality and as a means of carbon sequestration (biochar is very stable in soil environments and could be used as a means of storing atmospheric in the soil for hundreds of years). Biochar is produced by pyrolyzing biomass, which gives the char high surface area to volume ratios. This high surface area can adsorb many different chemicals in the soil. Past studies have shown that atrazine will adsorb to biochar, so the research question at hand is to determine if applying biochar in agricultural settings with decrease the amount of atrazine leached through the soil profile.

In order to test this we are conducting lab scale experiments using soil columns and field scale experiments in a local Cornell field. The lab scale soil columns include both homogenized soil profiles and undisturbed soil cores extracted from the field. This will allow us to determine how important natural macropore/micropore structure is to atrazine transport. The field project includes 100 groundwater wells distributed throughout experimental treatment plots located in a switchgrass field. We analyze all water samples using the ELISA method.

Soil and Water Lab people working on this project: Kyle Delwiche, Dominick Amador