The impact of organophosphate pesticides in orchards on earthworms in the Western Cape, South Africa
Earthworm population density was measured in and adjacent to an orchard in an agricultural area in the Western Cape, South Africa. Worm densities were very low in orchards (22/m2) compared to adjacent uncultivated fields (152/m2) at a distance from the orchards. The possible effect of organophosphate pesticides on the earthworms was investigated. Background soil concentrations of chlorpyrifos prior to the start of the spraying season were low (0.2-2.7 μg/kg) but persistent for up to 6 months after the last spraying event, and the pesticide was, as a result of rainfall, transported to nontarget areas by runoff. Background concentrations of azinphos methyl were higher than those of chlorpyrifos (1.6-9.8 μg/kg) but not detectable 2 weeks after a spraying event. Azinphos methyl was mostly transported by wind (spray drift) to adjacent areas. A microcosm study indicated effects of chlorpyrifos on earthworms as determined by measuring biomass change and Cholinesterase inhibition. It is concluded that earthworms were affected detrimentally by the pesticides due to chronic (chlorpyrifos) and intermittent (azinphos methyl) exposure. © 2005 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.