Adjuvants Energize Inputs

New For 2009
Product Action Company
AirLink Deposition/drift reduction
Canopy penetration agent
UCPA
Astound Water conditioner/
Nonionic surfactant premix
UCPA
Downdraft Canopy penetration/Deposition agent United Suppliers, Inc.
Exclaim High surfactant crop oil concentrate UCPA
Franchise Fungicide specific adjuvant Loveland Products/CPS
Powerhouse Nonionic surfactant/
Ammonium sulfate liquid
Rosen’s, Inc.
Prolec Penetrant/nonionic surfactant/
Deposition and drift control agent
Brandt Consolidated
PROTYX AERIAL Activator Precision Laboratories
Ultra-Lite Surfactant/AMS liquid premix United Suppliers, Inc.
Wetcit Patented orange oil/
surfactant formulation
United Suppliers, Inc.

Cautious. That’s the description of growers this season as they ride a roller coaster year of input price changes. At presstime Jim Reiss, vice president-agricultural business of Precision Laboratories, put it this way: “The relentless pursuit of lower pricing and delayed commitments at the grower level is having a ripple effect that may come back to haunt everyone in the channel.” He has found retailers are also delaying purchases of significant portions of their needed inputs. Why? Uncertainty — or hopes of price decreases. Alas, getting orders could even be compared to “pulling teeth,” notes Bob Herzfeld, product manager with Universal Crop Protection Alliance (UCPA).

“My concern is that capacity to produce finished goods and the logistics to deliver them may be strained later in the season,” Reiss says.

In any case, today’s adjuvants can truly help spooked customers get more for their pesticide dollar, product manufacturers insist. “Adjuvants helped growers get the most out of their spray applications when input costs were on the rise in 2008,” says Rod Riech, product manager with Brandt Consolidated. And Reiss points out that market research has shown that both growers and retailers are looking for more value and less risk in these uncertain times. Here are some specific ways adjuvants meet that challenge.

Teamed With Glyphosate

Adjuvants continue to assist the huge-scale glyphosate-resistant cropping system. Water conditioners and liquid ammonium sulfate (AMS) premixes were big sellers here again last year. The price of these adjuvants did not go up nearly as much as glyphosate, so they were attractive options for improving efficacy, Herzfeld says.

United Suppliers’ Formula 1, Fastrack, and Speedway are high quality water conditioners that have performed very well, says Tom Pekarek, specialty department manager. “Formula 1 contains a unique polymer that enhances glyphosate activity while offering spray drift management. Speedway directly replaces AMS in glyphosate mixtures, and Fastrack combines increased leaf absorption with water conditioning properties,” he describes. New for 2009 is a premixed surfactant/AMS liquid called Ultra-Lite. It combines the economy of a one-quart-per-100-gallon use rate with an easy-to-mix liquid AMS solution.

Winfield Solutions carries a number of water conditioners, including its “top line” ClassAct NG and Alliance, says Bruce Senst, director of marketing-adjuvants and equipment.

New from UCPA is Astound, a water conditioner/nonionic surfactant premix set for test marketing this year. So far, field research numbers from ’08 and comments from growers were “very favorable,” says Herzfeld.

Brandt’s new multi-action product in this arena is Prolec, billed as a penetrant/nonionic surfactant/deposition and drift control agent. Riech says in 2008 the compound was released in a few key markets, and performance has been “excellent. In both university and grower settings Prolec is performing to the level we expect from our products,” he says.

Introduced last year, Wilbur Ellis‘ Coverage G20 has been doing well in glyphosate applications, says Jon Leman, marketing and sales manager. It’s a deposition aid specifically designed to put 20% more product on target. “It just makes sense that if you can add value to the glyphosate spray, you’ve got a chance to do some business,” he points out.

Powerhouse from Rosen’s, Inc. offers the convenience of nonionic surfactant and AMS in one liquid container, says Kent Woodall, marketing director. Recently approved, it’s compatible with all glyphosate formulations, including those containing ammonium, isopropylamine, and potassium salts. Woodall expects the company’s established products geared for improved deposition and retention, especially Array and Zenith, will in be higher demand in ’09 as growth in the entire postemergence market continues. “With a DDS 2000 — Dry Delivery System — retailers can use our products and handle them in their bulk facilities,” says Woodall. “This speeds handling, dispensing, and improves rate or dose accuracy.”

A trend here is making postemergence systems work with less adjuvant, says Chuck Champion, president, Kalo Inc. For instance, instead of using 2½ gallons of a standard crop oil or methylated seed oil in a pesticide application, Kalo’s product Tronic can be used at 1 to 3 pints with the same efficacy, he says. “It’s a missionary job in a sense because you’re taking people off what they’re familiar with and re-establishing their trust that such a low use rate replacement is going to work.”

Another product in this category is Kalo’s Fraction, which replaces a standard sprayable-grade AMS. Instead of using 17 pounds of AMS per 100 gallons, only 4 pounds of Fraction are needed to both acidify the tank and condition the water.

With these types of adjuvants, dealers have fewer pallets to store and less product to move around, notes Champion. “That has a message that will resonate to profitability for a dealer/custom applicator.”

Another trend: “Applicators continue to expand the practice of adding a companion herbicide with glyphosate to broaden the spectrum of control or manage resistant weeds,” says Reiss. Unfortunately, tank-mix partners used with glyphosate have significantly different adjuvant needs. “Relying on the adjuvant system in a loaded glyphosate formulation or an ordinary adjuvant has left users dissatisfied with overall performance on key weed species,” he says. To solve the problem, Precision Laboratories developed SIMPLYX, an activator adjuvant specifically formulated for glyphosate and its tank-mix partners.

Pampering Fungicides

Late-season fungicide applications on corn were big again last year, and they got help from adjuvants, too. Reiss says Precision Laboratories’ PROTYX and PROTYX AERIAL were huge successes in 2008. An activator adjuvant, PROTYX is designed to replace crop oil concentrates (COCs) for users. “Once aerial applicators used PROTYX AERIAL and saw how it mixed better and didn’t hang in the flight path like ordinary crop oils, they quickly adopted the technology,” says Reiss.

For 2009, Loveland Products/Crop Production Services is launching a new product, Franchise, “tailored specifically for use with strobilurin chemistries,” says John Wilke, product manager for adjuvants. The newcomer has been in comprehensive trials, and Wilke notes “we’re very excited about what we saw.”

UCPA is targeting fungicide applications with its new deposition/drift reduction/canopy penetration adjuvant called AirLink. Herzfeld says the product offers canopy penetration and better coverage, especially down to the lower third of the leaf. He adds that it’s fairly easy to use, especially compared with some polymers that can “screw up your spray patterns because they’re thickeners. This gives you just about a perfect spray pattern,” he says. “You can lose up to 20% or more of your spray pattern to drift. Now we can probably cut that in half or better.”

Herzfeld notes that some thickeners can also plug tanks and nozzles, and liquid polymers can be difficult to store.

Later in the spring, UCPA will bring out Exclaim, a high surfactant crop oil concentrate, designed to replace traditional 83-17 COCs at half the rate. The “big deal” here is also that Exclaim is compatible with glyphosate, says Herzfeld. Plus, “it can be used as the oil portion of your plant health application, along with AirLink as the drift control agent,” he adds. Together they help the fungicide stay on the leaf so it won’t dry out.

“Our high surfactant concentrates, such as Superb HC and Destiny HC, produce great results due to our unique and patented CornSorb technology,” says Winfield’s Senst. Superb HC contains a blend of high fructose corn syrup, petroleum oil, and a nonionic surfactant emulsifier and because it’s used at lower rates, it requires less handling and storage space.

Last season United Suppliers introduced Downdraft, a crop-based canopy penetrant/deposition adjuvant for use with fungicides and insecticides. And Pekarek says Wetcit is a unique new adjuvant formulation also designed for this market.

Micronutrients At Work

The newest area where adjuvants are helping is in micronutrient sprays. Jim Garvin, technical services representative with Loveland Products/Crop Production Services says a specialty surfactant (such as the company’s LI700) can be valuable to bring micronutrient tank combinations to the ideal pH range (5.3 to 5.6) for moving the nutrients across the leaf membrane. “A pH-reducer added to the system also tends to make things mix a little easier,” he explains.

Reiss says that growers and applicators like the idea of supplying additional manganese and zinc at the same time they make their glyphosate applications — the timing is ideal and a combination spray saves them a trip across the field. “Unfortunately tank-mixing micronutrients with glyphosate often antagonizes the performance of glyphosate and results in lower levels of weed control,” says Reiss. Precision Labs debuted IMPORT adjuvant last year to assist the manganese/zinc/glyphosate mix. Being able to apply both herbicide and micros “provides both a savings to growers and an enhanced profit opportunity to retailers compared with chelated micronutrients,” he adds.

Garvin would add that timing of the foliar micro applications is a vital factor. For corn, he puts the date before the plant reaches 10 inches. In contrast, for soybeans, dealers should apply later, after pods are on the plant. “You’re really only having an influence on the nodes that are present when you spray. So if I do the first pass of glyphosate and have two or three nodes on the plant, I can double the yield on what’s there, but I won’t be able to measure it with a combine,” he says. “The magic day is the R3 stage.”

Micronutrients can also be teamed with a later season fungicide application on corn, says Brandt’s Riech. Boron timed with the application can aid assimilation of nitrogen and potassium.

Making The Sale

Adjuvants can be a moneymaker for dealers, emphasizes Champion. “Many times the last real profitable part of the process in a dealer/distributor’s business is the adjuvant. These products may not bring all that big a percentage to the bottom line but the percentage of profit per sale is pretty high,” he says. “There’s a lot of interest in the industry in keeping the adjuvant business growing — even some of the fungicide manufacturers are mindful of that, and they want to make sure the dealer/distributor has that profit still available to them.” He also notes that many generic glyphosate producers will promote a non-loaded glyphosate that users need to add the adjuvant to later — so dealers can “make an extra buck.”

Pekarek would caution that not all glyphosates are created equal and an applicator needs to know what kind of glyphosate package he may be using.

Manufacturers emphasize that retailers should go for quality when buying and selling adjuvants. “The difference between a good adjuvant system and a cheap one is often less than 50 cents per acre,” Reiss points out. Considering lower grower margins — as well as risks for poor performance, more chances of re-sprays, and lower yields — he says “gambling on the cost of cheap isn’t worth it.”

Herzfeld would encourage dealers to get better acquainted with adjuvants available today and not shy away from recommending them to customers. “Retailers are so frightened because of pricing — being cheap enough or economical enough. They’re getting so beat up over glyphosate pricing and fertilizer that when you can really make a difference by putting an additive in, right away, it’s ‘price, price, price,’” he says. “I’ve been in front of growers, and if you can show them the value of these products all of the sudden that price per acre means nothing to them when they’re spending up to $30 per acre for chemistry and $200 per acre for genetics. The extra 20 cents to 30 cents for a better adjuvant is nothing.”

Woodall agrees: “We suggest retailers continue to learn and understand how adjuvants work and why. They can offer the understanding and value proposition of adjuvants to grower-customers, so growers know why Adjuvant ‘A’ should be used with Pesticide ‘A’ and the Adjuvant ‘B’ should be used with Pesticide ‘B.’” Dealers should check with their adjuvant suppliers for training and easy-to-use technical materials. For instance, this month Rosen’s is publishing “Medallion Quality Adjuvants — Technical Training Book.”

Stay focused on the growers’ needs, says Wilbur-Ellis’ Leman. “Growers may have a different set of concerns than they do in a typical year, but we still have to provide value and meet those needs.”

Market Ahead

Trying market conditions have affected adjuvant manufacturers as well as dealers. Last year saw unstable raw material prices, making management of businesses more challenging, says Champion. “I think many raw materials escalated so quickly that the reaction was to buy before it goes up again. It was as unstable a time as I’ve ever seen in my 22 years in the business,” he explains.

But material prices are now falling, and entering this season, many suppliers and buyers are uncertain. “Everyone is in a ‘wait and see’ mode — the end-users, the distribution network — they’re all waiting, anticipating the next decrease. It’s a very, very late-breaking season,” he says.

“We also have to fight through some inventories that cost higher than what the market will support,” he adds. And there will be pressure on profit margins. “We’ll get through it. But it takes a lot better managing than it ever used to.”

Development of new adjuvants has slowed over the past several years, a trend that has paralleled the decreasing number of new active ingredients/pesticides being introduced. It used to be that every year adjuvant makers would be testing compounds, trying to find just the right additives, says Herzfeld.

But suppliers are optimistic about more new products ahead. Wilbur-Ellis is working on several adjuvants it hopes to bring to market over the next one to three years. “We think they’re truly unique and will offer something different in the adjuvant business — something we haven’t seen a lot of over recent years,” says Leman.

And Brandt’s Riech says in the future the company “will concentrate on delivery and uptake mechanisms for micronutrients tailored to the key physiological requirements of crops.”

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