Glyphosate-Based Herbicide Formulations with Greater Impact on Earthworms and Water Infiltration than Pure Glyphosate

Glyphosate is the most widely used active ingredient (AI) in thousands of glyphosate-based herbicides (GBHs) worldwide. Short-term impacts of AIs or GBHs on earthworms are well known, but few studies have examined long-term legacy effects >3 months after application. In a pot experiment, we studied both short-term and long-term effects on deep burrowing earthworms (Lumbricus terrestris) and soil functions. Therefore, the cover crop Sinapis alba was grown in soils with either 3.0% or 4.1% soil organic matter content (SOM) and either sprayed with a GBH (Touchdown Quattro, Roundup PowerFlex, or Roundup LB Plus) or the respective glyphosate AI (diammonium-, potassium-, or isopropylamine-salt) or hand weeded (control). Long-term effects showed increased earthworm activity under GBHs even 4 months after application, but similar activity under AIs and control. Another application of the same treatments 5 months after the previous one also increased earthworm activity under GBHs, especially at high SOM levels. Water infiltration after a simulated heavy rainfall was 50% lower, and leaching was 30% higher under GBH than under AI application or hand weeding. Individual GBHs and AIs varied in their effects and were influenced by SOM and soil moisture. Full disclosure of all ingredients in GBH formulations would be necessary to allow a comprehensive assessment of environmental risks.