Wide areas affectedOn average, for the studied areas of arable land with connectivity to a body of water, 55 percent of the area is connected via shortcuts. Soil hydrologist Christian Stamm, who led the study, therefore concludes that these flow paths are responsible for considerable contamination of streams with plant protection products – especially given that runoff from roads and pathways during rainfall events may contain far higher concentrations of pesticides than was previously assumed.
Water samples from inlet shafts that were studied in greater detail support the conclusion that hydraulic shortcuts are a significant factor when it comes to the issue of pesticides in streams: during rainfall events, the concentrations of plant protection products increased sharply. The water from the shafts must be diluted by a factor of up to 50 to prevent a risk to organisms in the stream.
The study was carried out in connection with the National Action Plan on Plant Protection Products, and the researchers are recommending that measures aimed at reducing the input of pesticides into surface waters should take better account of hydraulic shortcuts. Above all, the registration procedure for such products and the conditions applying to their runoff should in future consider entire catchments instead of just the areas of arable land alongside surface waters. Moreover, for the purposes of risk reduction, the researchers believe it is also necessary to examine how shortcuts could be prevented or mitigated, for example by stipulating distance requirements.