Better Mixes, Better Yields
In a changing crop protection market, retailers will need to become more savvy about tank chemistry and matching adjuvants with active ingredients.
September 9, 2008
Respect. That's what adjuvant makers covet from chemical manufacturers and users. "We are the delivery mechanism," says Kent Woodall, director of marketing at Rosen's Inc.
New, exciting chemistries in both adjuvant and pesticide markets are making delivery more complex. But manufacturers say it's worth the work to find the right products, especially in these days when any yield boost could mean more profits.
Retailers want to streamline their adjuvant product offerings, says Casey McDaniel, product manager of adjuvants and proprietary crop protection products at UAP/Loveland. "They don't need to have 10 to 15 adjuvants in the barn anymore. It's more like 3 or 4," he says.
Loveland is highlighting its LECI-TECH line, made from natural soya lecithin. Because of the compounds' hydrophobic and hydrophilic molecule sections, they work well with both oil-soluble and water-soluble herbicides.
"There's also a trend toward efforts to have liquid and dry adjuvants achieve better results with less product," says Chuck Champion, president of Kalo Inc. For instance, the company's new patented product Tronic replaces crop oils and methylated seed oil (MSOs) — and allows for use as low as 2 to 3 pints per 100 gallons, vs. traditional rates of 2 to 4 quarts per 100 gallons. "A new soybean oil-based chemistry, it provides crop safety and convenience without driving up costs," he says. The same holds true for two other new Kalo adjuvants, Mainstay and FRACTION.
A Dry Debate?
"Liquid adjuvants are quickly replacing dry formulations because liquids are easier for applicators to handle," believes Tom Pekarek, specialty department manager, United Suppliers, Inc. He cites the company's own Formula 1 and DoubleDown, touted as low rate, easy to use, and economical. "They both contribute to glyphosate activity through effective water conditioning and increased spray deposition."
Bob Herzfeld, Agriliance business manager, adjuvants, agrees that customers want adjuvants that are easier to handle. "Convenience is as important and some cases more important than price," he says. Indeed, instead of price, retailers need to compete on value if they want to remain profitable, says Mark Wayland, marketing manager — adjuvants and value-added products with Helena Chemical Co. "Value-driven products are the best way for retailers to differentiate themselves."
Woodall is concerned that growers won't want to spend the money for adjuvants. Products can now account for 10% to 30% of the total cost of an application — compared to 5% to 10% several years ago. He says the situation comes as chemical costs (especially in generics such as glyphosate) have gone down considerably in the last six years. "Tell growers, 'Go ahead and spend that $1 in adjuvants to make that $4 worth of chemicals work right.'"
Glyphosate And Generics
Jim Reiss, vice president — agricultural business at Precision LaborÂatories Inc., says the demand for concentrated/low-use chemistries can really be seen in adjuvant formulations designed to replace ammonium sulfate (AMS) in glyphosate applications. Then too, with the advent of GMOs and in particular, Roundup Ready (RR) technology, the need for oil-based adjuvants has decreased — mainly because crop oils and MSOs are not compatible with glyphosate, which usually needs water-based nonionic surfactants, not oils, says Herzfeld. (He does note that AMS can be used by all glyphosates, regardless of adjuvant load.)
"As we see more acres of glyphosate applied, there could be more of a trend to simply condition the water and not focus on spray drift," says Pekarek. He says that's where the company's low-use-rate, liquid adjuvant Speedway comes in, enhancing glyphosate by improving the characteristics of hard water and neutralizing metal cations. "Water quality impacts a bigger range of active ingredients than we think," says Jon Leman, marketing and sales manager with Wilbur-Ellis.
And as the industry continues to implement herbicide resistance strategies in glyphosate-resistant crops, new questions arise about how to handle varied active ingredients in tank mixes. Some of the low-use-rate water conditioning agents have worked for the glyphosate applications, says Reiss. "But applicators may be startled to discover that some of those same technologies could be detrimental to the performance of some of the tank mix partners they will choose to manage glyphosate-resistant weeds," says Reiss. (His company's SIMPLYX is geared for glyphosate tank mixes.) Herzfeld points out that "some of the tank mix herbicides will be oil-based, needing a crop oil or MSO — such as we have now having to deal with RR volunteer corn in RR beans. That poses a challenge." He points to Agriliance's Destiny HC, which uses a unique technology, employing a corn-based emulsifier system. "It's the first MSO that we know of that's compatible with glyphosate and can be used at half the rate of traditional MSOs."
"We see the greater attention to the use of adjuvants to revitalize the use of generic plant production products," says Jim Hazen, global development manager at Akzo Nobel Surfactants, supplier to adjuvant manufacturers. "Some of the generic products are six, seven, eight deep in the market today," points out Leman. And, they may be sporting old labels up to 17 or 18 years old. "For labels that called for nonionic surfactants, AMS, or oil, 20 years ago, there may be better options," he says. "With all the new formulations of some active ingredients, dealers should make no assumptions on what's safe — that a nonionic surfactant works the best." Wayland agrees: "The old days of simply using either a 'surfactant' or 'oil' are being replaced by more specific recommendations from manufacturers and academia. They'll require a higher level of communication from retailers for both growers and applicators."