The runoff characteristics of pesticides from paddy fields to rural rivers were investigated over a period of three years in Hokkaido Prefecture, Japan. High pesticide concentrations were usually observed in rivers during pesticide application periods. In one year, the growth of rice seedlings slowed down after transplantation owing to low temperatures and lack of sunshine, and many farmers delayed herbicide application. In that year, high-concentration runoff of herbicides in rivers was observed 1–3 weeks later than in average years. The pesticide runoff rates ranged from 0.3% for fenthion to 42% for benfuresate. The runoff rates of pesticides applied post-flood were large. Furthermore, the larger the water solubility of the pesticide, the larger the runoff rate. The highest concentrations of herbicides in paddy water were observed on the day of application or 1–2 days later, and the concentrations decreased exponentially afterwards. The half-lives of the herbicides ranged from 1.2 days for pretilachlor and esprocarb to 5 days for simetryn; the concentrations of the herbicides in paddy water had decreased to 1/10 of their initial concentrations by about 7 days after application. Therefore, the runoff amounts of pesticides from paddy fields could be decreased by improving irrigation-water management.

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