Applying pesticides to sugarcane billets before planting may decrease the chances for environmental contamination according to two studies published by Nicholls State University associate professor of chemistry, Dr. Darcey Wayment.
The first paper, Measured Concentrations of the Fungicide Azoxystrobin and the Insecticide Thiamethoxam on Sugarcane Seed Billets Following Chemical Treatment,” was published in the Journal of the American Society of Sugarcane Technologists in December. The second, “Soil dissipation of sugarcane billet seed treatment fungicides and insecticide using QuEChERS and HPLC,” was published in the Journal of Environmental Science and Health in January.
Dr. Wayment, who teaches analytical chemistry at Nicholls, co-authored the studies with Nicholls chemistry alumni Harley Ledet (BS ‘17), Nicholas Mayon (BS ‘19) and Kylie Torres (BS ‘18), and Dr. Paul White of the USDA-ARS Sugarcane Research Unit in Houma. Ledet, Mayon and Torres presented their research as part of Nicholls Expeaux and also at regional and national meetings.
“This is a big deal for undergraduates to have authorship in a scientific journal,” Dr. Wayment said. “This shows their level of expertise in the field and enhances their resume. For our faculty, this shows our level of expertise in the field and will lead to future collaborations and funding for projects.”
A billet is a stalk or stalk section of sugarcane. Though traditionally sugarcane is planted using the whole stalk, it can also be planted using billets. Fungicides are applied to protect the billet from harmful soil-borne fungus.
Together with the USDA, researchers studied how long certain pesticides remained on the sugarcane plant and in the soil. While pesticides are important to protect the plant early in the germination process, if they remain too long they can become damaging to humans, local wildlife and the environment.
Though it was difficult to ascertain how much was being applied, Dr. White and Dr. Wayment were able to estimate how much remained on the plant and how much could potentially move into the soil. This work indicates that treating billets before planting uses fewer agricultural chemicals and achieves increased sugarcane yields. Subsequent research looked at the dissipation rate of five leading pesticides used on sugarcane to determine their impact on the environment.
“This research will help scientists at the USDA evaluate which pesticides would be appropriate for use on sugarcane billet planting and how much of the pesticides should be applied,” Dr. Wayment said.
Dr. Wayment said the next step is to take what they learned and apply it to other pesticides and soil types.
“It feels great to see the results of many hours of hard work in print where it can be accessed by the worldwide scientific community,” he said. “In addition to furthering the scientific body of knowledge in this area, new questions related to the project materialize and often give birth to new ideas or projects. We are currently working on a project that will help determine why certain pesticides are not as effective as expected and how they bind to the soil.”
For more information on Nicholls Chemistry, visit www.nicholls.edu/chemistry.