Pesticide use in the wheat-maize double cropping systems of the North China Plain: Assessment, field study, and implications

Bentje Brauns*, Rasmus Jakobsen, Xianfang Song, Poul Løgstrup Bjerg

*Corresponding author for this work

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    In the North China Plain (NCP), rising inputs of pesticides have intensified the environmental impact of farming activities in recent decades by contributing to surface water and groundwater contamination. In response to this, the Chinese government imposed stricter regulations on pesticide approval and application, and better monitoring strategies are being developed. However, sufficient and well-directed research on the accumulation and impact of different pesticides is needed for informed decision-making. In this study, current pesticide use, and recent and current research on water contamination by pesticides in the NCP are reviewed and assessed. Additionally, a small-scale field study was performed to determine if residuals from currently-used pesticides in the NCP can be detected in surface water, and in connected shallow groundwater. The contaminants of interest were commonly used pesticides on winter wheat-summer maize fields (the dominant cropping system in the NCP), such as 2,4-D and atrazine. Sampling took place in May, July, and October 2013; and March 2014. Results from our literature research showed that sampling is biased towards surface water monitoring. Furthermore, most studies focus on organic chlorinated pesticides (OCPs) like the isomers of dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) and hexachlorocyclohexane (HCH), which were banned in China in 1983. However, currently-used herbicides like 2,4-D and atrazine were detected in river water and groundwater in all samplings of our field study. The highest concentrations of 2,4-D and atrazine were found in the river water, ranging up to 3.00 and 0.96μg/L, respectively. The monitoring of banned compounds was found to be important because several studies indicate that they are still accumulating in the environment and/or are still illegally in use. However, supported by our own data, we find that the monitoring in groundwater and surface water of currently permitted pesticides in China needs equal attention, and should therefore be increased.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalScience of the Total Environment
    Publication statusPublished - 2018


    • 2,4-D
    • Atrazine
    • North China Plain
    • Pesticides
    • Surface water–groundwater interaction


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