Fate and transport of chlormequat in subsurface environments

René K. Juhler, Trine Henriksen, Annette E. Rosenbom, Jeanne Kjær

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Background, aim and scope

Chlormequat (Cq) is a plant growth regulator used throughout the world. Despite indications of possible effects of Cq on mammalian health and fertility, little is known about its fate and transport in subsurface environments. The aim of this study was to determine the fate of Cq in three Danish subsurface environments, in particular with respect to retardation of Cq in the A and B horizons and the risk of leaching to the aquatic environment. The study combines laboratory fate studies of Cq sorption and dissipation with field scale monitoring of the concentration of Cq in the subsurface environment, including artificial drains.

Materials and methods

For the laboratory studies, soil was sampled from the A and B horizons at three Danish field research stations—two clayey till sites and one coarse sandy site. Adsorption and desorption were described by means of the distribution coefficient (K d) and the Freundlich adsorption coefficient (K F,ads). The dissipation rate was estimated using soil sampled from the A horizon at the three sites. Half life (DT50) was calculated by approximation to first-order kinetics. A total of 282 water samples were collected at the sites under the field monitoring study— groundwater from shallow monitoring screens located 1.5–4.5 m b.g.s. at all three sites as well as drainage water from the two clayey sites and porewater from suction cups at the sandy site, in both cases from 1 m b.g.s. The samples were analysed using LC-MS/MS. The field monitoring study was supported by hydrological modelling, which provided an overall water balance and a description of soil water dynamics in the vadose zone.


The DT50 of Cq from the A horizon ranged from 21 to 61 days. The Cq concentration-dependant distribution coefficient (K d) ranged from 2 to 566 cm3/g (median 18 cm3/g), and was lowest in the sandy soil (both the A and B horizons). The K F,ads ranged from 3 to 23 (µg1 − 1/n (cm3)1/n g−1) with the exponent (1/n) ranging from 0.44 to 0.87, and was lowest in the soil from the sandy site. Desorption of Cq was very low for the soil types investigated (<10%w). Cq in concentrations exceeding the detection limit (0.01 µg/L) was only found in two of the 282 water samples, the highest concentration being 0.017 µg/L.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1245-1256
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Science and Pollution Research
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2010


  • CCC
  • Chlormequat
  • Chlorocholine chloride
  • Cycocel
  • Freundlich isotherm
  • Groundwater
  • Pesticide
  • Quaternary ammonium herbicides
  • Soil
  • Sorption

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 2: Water Resources


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