Conversion of metam sodium and emission of fumigant from soil columns

Wei Zheng, Scott R. Yates, Sharon K. Papiernik, Joe Nunez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Metam sodium is the most widely used soil fumigant in the United States. The primary breakdown product of metam sodium in soil is methyl isothiocyanate (MITC), an active pesticidal agent with a high toxicity and a great potential for volatilization. Reducing atmospheric emissions of MITC is therefore critical to maintain air quality. The objective of this study was to examine the rate and efficiency of conversion of metam sodium to MITC in soil and to investigate the potential of using surface water sealing to reduce MITC emissions. The conversion of metam sodium to MITC was a rapid abiotic decomposition process. At typical field application rates, the conversion efficiency depended on the initial content of metam sodium in soil, but was independent of soil moisture, soil type, and soil atmospheric conditions. A soil column system was used to measure the emission and distribution of MITC after subsurface and surface application of metam sodium. Volatilization flux and cumulative emission loss of MITC was substantially reduced with surface water sealing compared to uncovered soil columns after subsurface application of metam sodium. When metam sodium was surface applied in simulated chemigation, surface water sealing was ineffective, suggesting the need for additional emissions reduction practices when metam sodium is broadcast. Overall, the results of the column experiment indicate that surface water sealing with subsurface application of metam sodium may be an effective and economical strategy to reduce MITC emissions while maintaining pest control efficacy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7046-7056
Number of pages11
JournalAtmospheric Environment
Issue number36
StatePublished - Nov 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Conversion
  • Emission reduction
  • Fumigant
  • MITC
  • Metam sodium
  • Surface water sealing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Atmospheric Science


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