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Influence of land use and region on glyphosate and aminomethylphosphonic acid in streams in the USA

January 20, 2020

Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in the United States for agricultural and non-agricultural weed control. Many studies demonstrate possible effects of glyphosate and its degradate AMPA on human and ecological health. Although glyphosate is thought to have limited mobility in soil, it is found year-round in many rivers and streams throughout the world in both agricultural and developed environments. It is vitally important to continue to increase the knowledge base of glyphosate use, distribution, transport, and impacts on human health and the environment. Here we show that glyphosate and AMPA are found in nearly all of 70 streams throughout the United States at concentrations far below human health or ecological benchmarks, with less occurrence in the Northeast and that undeveloped land, classified as such by land use near the sampling station, has lower concentrations compared to other types of land. Results also show that sites with large watersheds tend to have more AMPA than glyphosate and the opposite is true for small watersheds. Travel times and opportunity for glyphosate to degrade to AMPA and for reservoirs of AMPA to grow are greater in large watersheds. Factors that promoted quick movement of glyphosate to streams, such as subsurface tile or storm drains, sewers, overland flow from developed landscapes, and arid landscapes were associated with sites that had greater concentrations of glyphosate compared to AMPA. These results contribute contemporary information and generalized interpretations adding to the knowledge base of the fate of glyphosate on a national scale and provide a springboard for further exploration of technical processes controlling transport to streams.