Small-Grain Cover Crops Have Limited Effect on Neonicotinoid Contamination from Seed Coatings

Kirsten A. Pearsons, Elizabeth K. Rowen, Kyle R. Elkin, Kyle Wickings, Richard G. Smith, John F. Tooker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Neonicotinoids from insecticidal seed coatings can contaminate soil in treated fields and adjacent areas, posing a potential risk to nontarget organisms and ecological function. To determine if cover crops can mitigate neonicotinoid contamination in treated and adjacent areas, we measured neonicotinoid concentrations for three years in no-till corn-soybean rotations, planted with or without neonicotinoid seed coatings, and with or without small grain cover crops. Although neonicotinoids were detected in cover crops, high early season dissipation provided little opportunity for winter-planted cover crops to absorb significant neonicotinoid residues; small grain cover crops failed to mitigated neonicotinoid contamination in either treated or untreated plots. As the majority of neonicotinoids from seed coatings dissipated shortly after planting, residues did not accumulate in soil, but persisted at concentrations below 5 ppb. Persistent residues could be attributed to historic neonicotinoid use and recent, nearby neonicotinoid use. Tracking neonicotinoid concentrations over time revealed a large amount of local interplot movement of neonicotinoids; in untreated plots, contamination was higher when plots were less isolated from treated plots.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4679-4687
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 20 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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