University of California

The toxicity of sodium arsenite and sodium chlorate in four California soils


A. S. Crafts

Author Affiliations

A. S. Crafts was Assistant Botanist in the Experiment Station.

Publication Information

Hilgardia 9(9):459-498. DOI:10.3733/hilg.v09n09p459. July 1935.

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Soil sterilization by means of chemicals has been practiced for many years. Among the agents used, arsenic is the most prominent. Recognized years ago(8), (14) as particularly effective, it has been recommended by many workers(3), (7), (13), (15) for controlling weeds in drives, walks, tennis courts, and various waste areas.

More recently the need for cheap and practical soil-sterilization methods has been indicated by consideration of(1) the dissemination by irrigation waters of the seeds from weeds growing on the ditchbanks,(2) the blocking of irrigation and drainage ditches by overhanging weed growth,(3) the harboring of insect pests and plant diseases by weeds in waste areas, and(4) the fire hazards of dry vegetation near roads, firebreaks, buildings, and fences.

That the methods described in the literature have found such limited use is apparently explained by the lack of fundamental knowledge regarding the behavior of arsenic in soils. There is no basis for interpreting critically the results obtained in the field. When the responses of soils to arsenic treatment are clearly understood and when more satisfactory methods are devised for applying arsenic under field conditions, this chemical should be far more widely used as a soil sterilant.

A satisfactory agent for killing deep-rooted perennial weeds through the soil has long been sought. Aslander(1), (2) showed that sodium chlorate may be successfully used for this purpose. Although his results were apparently overlooked in the hurried attempts to solve the country’s weed problems by the use of this chemical as a foliage spray, recent works(6), (9), (10), (11) point to soil treatment as the more logical method and indicate the need of a more consistent and reliable control practice than has been existent. Studies on the behavior of sodium chlorate in four western soils should assist materially the formulation of this practice.

Literature Cited

[1] Åslander Alfred. Chlorates as plant poisons. Jour. Amer. Soc. Agron. 1926. 18:1101-1102.

[2] Åslander Alfred. Experiments on the eradication of Canada thistle, Cirsium arvense with chlorates and other herbicides. Jour. Agr. Research. 1928. 36:915-934.

[3] Ball W. S., Madson B. A., Robbins W. W. The control of weeds. California Agr. Ext. Cir. 1931. 54:1-68.

[4] Crafts A. S., Kennedy P. B. Physiology of Convolvulus arvensis(morning-glory or bindweed) in relation to its control by chemical sprays. Plant Physiol. 1930. 3:329-344.

[5] Crafts A. S. The use of arsenical compounds in the control of deep-rooted perennial weeds. Hilgardia. 1933. 7(9):361-372. DOI: 10.3733/hilg.v07n09p361 [CrossRef]

[6] Crafts A. S. Factors influencing the effectiveness of sodium chlorate when used as an herbicide. Hilgardia. 1935. 9(9):437-457. DOI: 10.3733/hilg.v09n09p437 [CrossRef]

[7] Gray George P. Tests of chemical means for the control of weeds. Univ. California Pubs. Agr. Sci. 1919. 4:67-97.

[8] Jones L. R., Orton W. A. Killing weeds with chemicals. Vermont Agr. Exp. Sta. 12th Annual Rept. 1899. pp.182-188.

[9] Loomis W. E., Bissey Russell, Smith E. V. Chlorates as herbicides. Science. 1931. 74:485

[10] Loomis W. E., Smith E. V., Bissey Russell, Arnold L. C. The absorption and movement of sodium chlorate when used as an herbicide. Jour. Amer. Soc. Agron. 1933. 25:724-739.

[11] Muenscher W. C. Killing perennial weeds with chlorates during winter. New York (Cornell) Agr. Exp. Sta. Bul. 1932. 542:1-8.

[12] Shaw C. F. The basis of classification and key to the soils of California. First Internal. Cong. Soil Sci. Proc. and Papers. 1927. 4:1-39.

[13] Schulz E. R., Thompson Noel F. Some effects of sodium arsenite when used to kill the common barberry. U. S. Dept. Agr. Dept. Bul. 1925. 1316:1-18.

[14] Stone G. E. Effects of chemicals on vegetation. Massachusetts Agr. Exp. Sta. 21st Ann. Rept. 1909. pp.62-72.

[15] Thompson Noel F., Robbins W. W. Methods of eradicating the common barberry (Berberis vulgarisL. U. S. Dept. Agr. Dept. Bul. 1926. 1451:1-46.

Crafts A. 1935. The toxicity of sodium arsenite and sodium chlorate in four California soils. Hilgardia 9(9):459-498. DOI:10.3733/hilg.v09n09p459
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