In particular, I am interested in it's effects after it has been applied and the roots affected have been largely removed. Does it break down over time, and if so what is the time frame? What will happen if something else is planted where roots treated with this root killer where at previously? If there are ill effects, is there anything that can be done such as the application of water to dilute the remaining chemical?

Everything I have read says very little about this, and is even somewhat contradictory, e.g. "copper sulfate can be used as an algae and fungus killer and kills some plants but also can be used as fertilizer."

  • some information about the location in the world, type of soil, concentration and quantity of the solution applied, type of tree root it was applied to would be helpful. As is this question cannot be answered. – kevinskio Mar 26 '17 at 0:20
  • @kevinsky Don't know the type of soil, unfortunately... it looks like dirt! ;-) not sure on the amount either, it wasn't a large amount, roughly a pound I would say, on oleanders. – Michael Mar 26 '17 at 21:46

Because of the variability of the environmental fate of this chemical, which shows different decay/leaching rates in different soil textures/environments, you cannot get a direct answer such as "This product will have dissipated in x days".

Studies have shown that acidic soil will not bind with Copper(II) sulfate near as much as soils that are closer to neutral (30% of copper was bound at pH 3.9 and 99% of copper was bound at pH 6.6.). Also, higher calcium ion levels will increase the chemical binding, whereas sodium ions will cause more leaching. Soils that stay moist will retain the copper sulfate. Also, the smaller the soil particles, the more likely for the chemical to stay in the soil.

Also, from Cornell:

Copper sulfate is: (a) partly washed down to lower soil levels by water percolating through the ground, called groundwater; (b) partly bound to soil components; and (c) partly changed into different metabolites, or breakdown products. Copper is considered to be among the more mobile of the heavy metals in surface environments. Copper is bound, or adsorbed, to organic materials, and to clay and mineral surfaces. The degree of copper adsorption to soils depends on the level of acidity or alkalinity of the soil. The distance that it can travel in soil is limited by its strong adsorption to many types of surfaces. All applied copper will become a part of the soil copper content. Although copper sulfate is highly water soluble-that is, it dissolves very easily in water-the copper ions are strongly adsorbed or precipitated to soil particles when it is applied to soil. The leaching potential of this material is low in all but sandy soils.

You said you have the treated roots removed for the most part. Once the chemical is adsorbed to soil particles it will not be an active phytotoxin and you can plant. I personally do not recommend the use of this as an herbicide in areas where you intend to revegetate in a short time frame. And what does leach into the groundwater could travel into waterways where it is a fish toxin. Small amounts like you probably used, especially on high ground, probably won't be a problem, but there are safer and more specialized herbicides available today, such as a combination of 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, 3,5,6-trichloro-2-pyridinyloxyacetic acid, and RS)-2-(4-Methyl-5-oxo-4-propan-2-yl-1H-imidazol-2-yl)pyridine-3-carboxylic acid (in ether solution).


Further References

  • Thanks for your reply! Apparently there was a miscommunication about whether or not something new was to be planted where the old stuff was removed - I thought nothing was going to be planted, but it turns out my wife only didn't want to replant some of the areas. – Michael Mar 26 '17 at 21:44
  • @Michael if weeds come up and look healthy, you're probably good to go. Or, you could plant a little bit and see if it thrives before planting the whole thing. Worst case scenario you'd just have to replace some topsoil. That's unlikely unless you overapplied. – J. Musser Mar 26 '17 at 21:47
  • Yeah I was kinda thinking something along the lines of, "maybe I can plant something I don't care about (a weed of sorts) and see if it dies"... – Michael Mar 26 '17 at 22:35

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