Adjuvants, Specialty Inputs Gain Ground

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Spray drift

With current corn and soybean commodity prices, anything is possible, right? Well, you know much more goes into the equation. Input costs for seed, fertilizer, fuel, weed and pest control, etc., continue to off-set potential profit margin. And, no one can predict Mother Nature’s seasonal effects.

Nevertheless, strong commodity prices will drive growers to consider new options in 2011. That’s where adjuvants and specialty products may offer ways to boost return on investment of inputs already going into the crop.

We’ve investigated the latest innovations and recommendations from distributors and industry leaders to find out how value-added inputs may benefit your growers. Time spent thinking about how these products fit with various corn and soybean cropping systems may turn into new profits for your 2011 selling season.

Yield Opportunities

Positive financials, combined with the quest for ever-higher yields, may spur grower interest in ancillary products. As growers become more aware of the usefulness and issues surrounding adjuvants and specialty inputs, many experts expect use to grow.

“It’s hard to miss the constant discussion about increasing yields,” says Dr. Jeff Bunting, GROWMARK crop protection marketing manager. “If we look back at previous generations who experienced the ‘Green Revolution,’ to the adoption of traits and to what we now view as the ‘Yield Revolution,’ it’s exciting.

“With today’s needs for fuel, feed and food, the trend to attain higher yields will drive the use of adjuvants/specialty products, and their adoption will continue to increase over the next three to five years.”

Bunting says many lessons were learned from 2010 challenges. He believes soybean yields represented one of the highlights. “Last year brought many new technologies to growers with additional traits in corn, higher-yielding soybeans and greater use of fungicides. We also learned that weed resistance, diseases and insect pressure took yield away. GROWMARK saw encouraging advances in soybeans yields in our agronomy trials and other support provided through the FS Green Plans Solutions program.”

Terry Nash, Helena brand manager-adjuvants, agrees that yield push paves the way for new practices. Yet, his take-away from 2010: The same basics we’ve known for a while still apply.

“You need an adjuvant to help get full value from your crop protection input investment,” he says. “Whether it’s getting good coverage and canopy penetration with a fungicide, or getting a thorough application for over-the-top weed control, a high-quality adjuvant plays a key role in achieving top product performance.”

Bruce Senst, Winfield Solutions director of agri-solutions/adjuvants, agrees. “Yield potential and glyphosate resistance are driving adjuvant attractiveness. Going into 2011, most recommendations continue to be the same: proper spray management, drift control and deposition, maximizing crop protection coverage on the targeted crop and correct nozzle/droplet size.”

More Glyphosate Tank Mix Partners

Glyphosate resistance weeds also posed special challenges in 2010, which will mean new management approaches in 2011. More products with different modes of action will be added to the tank with glyphosate. Retailers and growers will take a closer look at the role of adjuvants.

“With glyphosate resistance, either looming or already impacting a grower’s yield potential, optimizing the activity of a glyphosate tank mix with the right adjuvant and spray volume will be critical,” says Dr. Dan Westberg, BASF crop protection technical market manager.

Westberg says BASF is recommending a 4-step program, called A-C-T-T for adjuvant-coverage-tank mix timing, to optimize the burndown performance of their products powered by Kixor herbicide technology. Using a high quality methylated seed oil at the rate 1% v/v or minimum of 1 pint per acre, application volume and time will maximize control glyphosate resistant broadleaf weeds such as marestail and giant ragweed.

With glyphosate no longer a stand-alone option for weed control, other products are expected to move forward in the marketplace. Retailers may now see an opportunity to discuss value-added options with growers beyond seed, fertilizer and previous herbicide programs, says Westberg.

Bob Herzfeld, Universal Crop Pro­tection Alliance (UCPA) director of sales and marketing, sees the need for glyphosate resistance management as one of many issues providing retailers chances to broaden recommendations to growers.

“I think growers are paying more attention to adjuvants,” says Herzfeld. “In the past, growers driving 50 mph down the road thought their fields looked good and probably could not tell any difference in adjuvant performance. You couldn’t tell one 90/10% non-ionic surfactant from another unless a quality product stood out. With higher commodity prices, growers are obviously looking for higher yields and will make sure they’re using the best adjuvants to make this happen.

“Today many growers work with consultants, agronomists, retailer trials and other sources to sort out the benefits. Also, adjuvants are somewhat of an insurance policy so that growers don’t have to re-spray.”

Jon Leman, Wilbur-Ellis marketing and sales manager, notes it’s interesting how some tank mix partners require different types of adjuvants. “Some active ingredients such as clethodium (Select, Select Plus or Volunteer herbicides) respond best to oil-based adjuvants. However, oil-based adjuvants are generally antagonistic to glyphosate,” he says. Wilbur-Ellis offers solutions and ongoing research to discover the best tools for the tank.

Water Quality Issues

Spray water quality brings another critical factor to application efficacy. Consider that spray water may come from city water, farm wells or a retailer’s water source. “You don’t know water quality until it’s tested,” says Herzfeld. “It varies farm by farm, well by well, source by source and year by year, depending upon the aquifer.”

In turn, he points out that water hardness can affect the absorption of herbicides, insecticides and fungicides. Also, pH affects tank mixes as much as water hardness. These water quality concerns are especially prevalent in the upper Midwest. “Water quality can really nail herbicides and interact with insecticides,” says Westberg.

Water pH levels and the impact of solubility on different actives isn’t a topic that gets much discussion, adds Leman. “You may raise the pH to increase solubility, but often a lower pH when water hits the plant is better for plant uptake. It’s outside the typical toolbox of ideas, but we’re taking a look at it in our research.”

Drift Management

EPA initiatives now put more industry focus on drift management and deposition issues. “At every crop protection meeting there’s a discussion about drift. EPA has commissioned USDA to establish protocols from drift, nozzles, various spray equipment, techniques, additives/adjuvants and more that go into the tank,” says Herzfeld.

One notable regulation being considered involves a set-back rating requirement, which may mean an area or buffer strip that could not be sprayed. If that’s the case, a low-rating could mean a 150-foot buffer strip, and a high rating might mean a 10 to 12 foot buffer strip. When you think about it, under such regulations, many acres would not be sprayed and yield potential wasted,” says Herzfeld.

“EPA monitors all drift complaints. These are low percentages in terms of acres sprayed in the eyes of the industry, but any amount looks bad to the EPA,” he says.

Leman agrees the growers and retailers can expect more drift regulation on the horizon. “In fact, many labels now require specific droplet size printed right on the pesticide label. The EPA perspective to prevent drift means optimal application will require larger droplet size. As droplet size goes up, efficacy goes down.

“Our solution and challenge as distributors and applicators requires determining in-tank adjuvants to improve coverage, attain efficacy and comply with product labels,” he says.

James Reiss, Precision Laboratories vice president of ag chemistries, says, “We’re helping our customers understand the interactions between adjuvants, nozzle selection and crop protection chemistries to minimize drift and increase efficacy by matching specific adjuvants with specific nozzles.”

Looking Ahead In 2011

The adjuvants and specialty products market for 2011 won’t be defined as much by new products as it will by new trends. Advances in nutrients, inoculants, seed enhancements and educational tools will dominate the landscape. Retailer and grower receptiveness to these trends opens the door to new adoption.

Your distributors, sales representatives and other players offer great advice. Here’s a sampling of what some are saying:

•  AGROTAIN. “Our production of SUPERU, a stabilized nitrogen granular fertilizer is at an all-time high and research shows its consistent spreading capability,” says Agrotain President Mike Stegmann. “AGROTAIN additive reduces nitrogen volatilization loss when added to granular urea or liquid UAN. AGROTAIN PLUS is available for UAN and contains an additional nitrogen stabilizer to reduce leaching losses.”

•  EMD Crop BioSci­ence. “Our products such as Optimize 400 help achieve increased vigor, growth and plant development for higher yields,” says Ryan Locke, EMD North American marketing manager, soybeans. Other EMD products to consider include CUE, Ratchet and LCO Promoter Technology foliar-applied formulations.

•  Helena. Brand Manager Gary Schmunk says, “CoRoN controlled-release nitrogen, either by itself, or in combination with a fungicide application gives the crop a needed nutritional boost during critical growth stages and helps with deposition of the applied fungicide.” He adds, “CoRoN can also re-supply the corn or soybean crop with nutrients which may leach away from the initial fertilizer application.”

•  Precision Laboratories. “Re­tailers and growers can check our new ‘Mix/Tank app’,” recommends Reiss. “It’s a new iPhone app that helps you determine how to get the most out of every tank mix. You can receive recommendations and share with others through e-mail, Facebook and Twitter. We also have a series of short educational videos at www.youtube.com/mixtankapp.com.”

Also, Terry Culp, Precision Labora­tories, says their new bio-inducer product TRIDENT, will stimulate soybean root nodulation for enhanced nitrogen fixation. Supplies of TRIDENT will be limited in 2011. Also, Precision’s new line of foliar nutrition products will be introduced under the WUAL brand name.

•  Wolf Trax. Managing Director Kerry Green says Wolf Trax DDP Micronutrients and PROTINUS seed-applied fertilizer will feed young seedling to promote early growth in cool soils. PROTINUS, a seed-applied fertilizer, safely provides nutrients to young plants, resulting in earlier emergence, larger seedlings and longer roots. Launched in 2010, many growers will have their first exposure to this technology in 2011.

“Growers who purchased wheat treated with PROTINUS in fall 2010 reported better emergence and vigorous early growth,” says Green.

Meyer is a freelance writer for Lobo Communications, Inc., Manchester, MO.

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