Pesticide loads and associated toxicity can be significantly reduced using integrated vegetated treatment systems, which remove moderately soluble and hydrophobic pesticides, but need a sorbent material to remove more soluble pesticides. Neonicotinoids such as imidacloprid are widely used insecticides, acutely toxic, and have been linked to a range of ecological effects. Laboratory experiments were conducted to test the sorptive capacity of granulated activated carbon and biochar for removing imidacloprid and the organophosphate insecticide chlorpyrifos in a scaled-down treatment system. Simulated irrigation water spiked with individual pesticides was treated with a bench-top system designed to mimic a 600 L carbon installation receiving 108,000 L of flow per day for sixteen days. Biochar reduced insecticides to less than detectable and non-toxic levels. Granulated activated carbon similarly reduced chlorpyrifos, but allowed increasing concentrations of imidacloprid to break through. Both media treated environmentally relevant concentrations, and would be effective if used under conditions with reduced particle loads.
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Funding for this project was provided by the Anthropocene Institute, Palo Alto, California. Imidacloprid analysis was conducted by the UC Davis Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering under the direction of Dr. Thomas Young.
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Voorhees, J.P., Phillips, B.M., Anderson, B.S. et al. Comparison of the Relative Efficacies of Granulated Activated Carbon and Biochar to Reduce Chlorpyrifos and Imidacloprid Loading and Toxicity Using Laboratory Bench Scale Experiments. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol 104, 327–332 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00128-020-02790-4
- Vegetated treatment system (VTS)
- Neonicotinoid insecticide
- Organophosphate insecticide
- Granulated activated carbon (GAC)