Herbicide Research: Going Small For Big Results

For nearly a decade, experts have been proclaiming that nanotechnology is on the verge of revolutionizing the food processing and packaging industries. But nanotechnology shows its most promising breakthroughs much earlier in the food production chain — on the farm.

Crop protection companies have started to manufacture products containing particles of active ingredients that are at or near the nanoscale definition of 1 nm to 100 nm. At this size, they are 2,000 to 50,000 times smaller than particles in conventional crop protection products. A nanotechnology herbicide, for example, will contain many trillions of particles of active ingredient per litre. The extra surface area created by the reduction in particle size boosts potency, accelerates uptake by the plant, increases solubility in the spray tank and reduces or even eliminates the risk of settling and separation. In addition, nanotechnology is spawning a variety of breakthrough products such as herbicide sensors that can dramatically reduce the amount of product used and toxicity of herbicide and pesticide treatments.

Nanoparticles are created using one of two methods. One involves grinding the crop protection products down to a couple of microns in a single pass-through a large disk mill (300 or 500 liter machine) for the mean PS. The method used by most crop protection manufacturers to develop nano-sized particles is through the comminution of larger, coarser particles, which is referred to as the dispersion or top-down method. But getting larger particles down to submicron particle size requires high energy density, achieved through wet comminution with a media mill.

Media milling — or grinding — is the most well-established manufacturing method for nanoparticle production. Stirred media mills, for example, are used in many different industries to reduce particle size, including lithium ion battery manufacturers, ceramic manufacturers, electronic component manufacturers and more. Nanogrinding with a stirred media mill offers key benefits for crop protection manufacturers including excellent particle size control, comparative cost effectiveness and equipment scalability.

Stirred media mills continue advancing, and agitator design is an important consideration. Click here to see an agitator and chamber design of a modern media mill. The system creates grinding and dispersion by agitating the beads with the pins or pegs on the agitator shaft. Uniform compression throughout the chamber’s length is key to this process. This concept results in total utilization of the media charge and mill capacity for greater efficiency in particle size reduction.

Another key consideration should also be keeping particles free from contamination during the milling process. Metal grinding equipment can slough off metal particles leading to accidental contamination, affecting the final quality agrochemical. Ceramic mills, free of metal grinding shafts and chambers, can prevent this contamination and ensure that the performance of the coatings isn’t compromised.

Out Of The Weeds

The potential of nanotechnology to create crop protection products with revolutionary properties is prompting many of the world’s largest chemical companies such as Syngenta Crop Protection, BASF and Bayer CropScience to speed up their commercial development. Also, DuPont Crop Protection has provided expertise and support for the U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative, a 10-year $12 billion research program to date.

These companies have been testing the performance of crop protection products containing particles of conventional size that can be boosted simply by adding a catalyst containing nano-scale particles. BASF and Embrapa, the Brazilian Agricultural Research Cooperation, jointly developed herbicide-tolerant soybeans that were green-lighted by the CTNBio, the Brazilian Biosafety Technical Commission. This decision will allow BASF and Embrapa to bring the new production system with the brand name Cultivance to Brazilian farmers. Both companies are now seeking the approval for this technology in key export markets, such as China and the United States. The Cultivance Production System combines herbicide-tolerant soybean varieties with BASF’s broad-spectrum imidazolinone class of herbicides, tailored to regional conditions — and was made possible in part by nanotechnology.

The Cultivance Production System, which combines herbicide-tolerant soybean varieties with BASF’s broadspectrum imidazolinone class of herbicides, tailored to regional conditions.

According to statements on BASF’s Web site, the new technology offers growers a production system that effectively manages a broad spectrum of weeds. Designed for post-emergence application, Cultivance herbicides provide growers with convenience and flexibility to apply the herbicide as needed to control weeds during the first few weeks of crop growth. A single application provides season-long control of both broadleaf and grass weeds, including those difficult to control. Fewer herbicide applications per hectare will reduce the use of machinery and labor, reducing costs for growers as well as decreasing the release of CO2 into the environment.

For the past five years, however, crop protection research has been focusing more so on ways to use nanotechnology to attack a weed’s seed coating and prevents weeds from germinating. This approach destroys the weed even when it is buried in soil and prevents it from growing in even the most favorable conditions, say the researchers. Due to the small proportions of the nano-scale herbicides, they can easily blend with soil and attack seeds that are buried below the reach of tillers and conventional herbicides. This also allows growers to prevent the spreading of weeds that will multiply through stem cuttings from tilling.

Sensor Use

Researchers at the University of Texas-El Paso confirm that plants can also soak up nanoparticles that could be industrially harvested. In one particle farming experiment, alfalfa plants were grown on artificially gold-rich soil; gold nanoparticles in the roots and along the entire shoot of the plants that had physical properties like those produced using conventional chemistry techniques but are expensive and harmful to the environment. With nanotechnology, the metals are simply and easily extracted just by dissolving the organic material.

Thanks to nanotechnology, the agriculture industry may also be able to use new highly efficient devices or sensors to help control release of crop protection products. Also known as precision farming, this process uses nanoparticles to store and release pesticides/herbicides or fertilizers in a controlled manner. Nanoclay capsules, for example, can store fertilizers and release them slowly, allowing only one application during the cycle of the crop, thus saving time and fuel for the grower.

Furthermore, nanosensors can help growers make better growing decisions and respond faster to potential problems, as they can help monitor soil moisture, temperature, pH, nitrogen availability and measure crop growth. They can even help growers diagnose diseases before symptoms are visible or help them carry out microbiological tests quickly, seeing results within an hour.

Growing In Our Fields Tomorrow

Like all things, new nanotechnology approaches need to be carefully introduced for agricultural applications only after thorough evaluation of the benefits and risks, and identification of stewardship practices to accompany practical implementation. Yet there is great promise in the field of agrochemicals, farming, and food production with new products being trialed around the world.

Could nanotechnology be the key to producing commercial foodstuffs with strange and fun properties like soda that changes colors or cereal bars that adjust their sugar content to accommodate individuals’ various dietary restrictions?

While nanotechnology appears to have the potential to increase the sales appeal of many foods in developed countries, is it a magic wand? Some questions still remain in terms of long-term safety.

However, if — like research suggests — nanoherbicides can decrease or eliminate the effect of excess toxins on the environment, and allow growers around the world to increase their yields at lower costs so that third-world countries can someday feed their citizens — well, then that truly is magical.

Leave a Reply

Herbicides Stories

HerbicidesArysta Touts Burndown Herbicide For Brome Management In Wheat
June 4, 2014
Arysta LifeScience North America recommends PRE-PARE Burndown Herbicide for effective brome management in winter wheat. Read More
HerbicidesFall Herbicide Applications More Effectively Manage Resistant Italian Ryegrass
May 14, 2014
Field studies show that a fall application of certain herbicides before weed emergence, leads to more successful crop planting and weed control in spring. Read More
Waterhemp in soybean stubble
HerbicidesThe Weed Resistance Problem: A Matter Of Billions
April 1, 2014
Not only is the amount of money being spent to control these yield robbers high, but the toll it has taken on the human population is growing lager by the day. Read More
HerbicidesHerbicides 2014: A Weed Killer For Every Weed
December 2, 2013
As weed resistance continues to proliferate, there are simply more options available than ever before in weed control — with more on the horizon. Read More

Trending Articles

Green Valley Ag facility
Retail FacilitiesGreen Valley Ag Adopts A.J. Sackett’s Precision Fertilizer Blending® Technology At New Facility
July 8, 2014
Sackett's Precision Fertilizer Blending® Technology is making huge strides around the world. Green Valley Ag adopts the technology at its new facility to support its advancing agronomic needs. Read More
Retail FacilitiesWaconia Manufacturing Builds Facility Designed For Speed, Efficiency
July 7, 2014
To make its new hub facility more efficient, Cooperative Elevator enlisted the aid of Waconia Manufacturing. Read More
EquipmentSummer Show Preview 2014: Superior Sprayers Take The Field
July 3, 2014
In this final installment of our coverage of the major categories of Big IRON that retailers can expect to test-drive at this summer’s events, here is a look at 19 sprayers. Read More
Scouting a soybean patch at Green Valley Ag.
EmployeesCropLife Compensation Survey: Battling Talent Drain
July 2, 2014
Retailers too often lose employees to companies outside of agriculture, while recruiting efforts are most often limited to competitors and other ag-focused organizations. Read More
HerbicidesDow AgroSciences Introduces SureStart II Herbicide
June 16, 2014
The enhanced formulation has improved viscosity and increased stability under heat and controls more than 60 high-anxiety grasses and broadleaf weeds found in corn fields. Read More
HerbicidesBASF Investing $270 Million To Expand U.S. Herbicide Production
June 11, 2014
BASF has invested more than $270 million to expand herbicide production capacities in the U.S., including more than 20 new products to be launched over next two years. Read More

Latest News

InsecticidesHow To Scout For Corn Earworms In Corn
July 28, 2014
In her weekly report, University of Missouri Agronomy Specialist Jill Scheidt discusses what to look for when scouting for corn earworm. Read More
Crop InputsDuPont Pioneer, Weyerhaeuser Enter Technology License A…
July 28, 2014
The agreement brings together agricultural and forestry know-how to sustainably improve crop productivity for corn growers around the world. Read More
EquipmentAGCO Launches Global iPad App
July 28, 2014
The free AGCO Global iPad App can be downloaded from the Apple iTunes Store and features the full family of RoGator self-propelled sprayers and TerraGator high-floatation spreaders. Read More
Eric SfiligojYuma Centennial Ag Supply Earns 2014 National Environme…
July 28, 2014
Colorado-based ag retailer receives top trophy in 24th annual DuPont Crop Protection/CropLife ceremony. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Forms Alliance With Wildlife Managment, Seed O…
July 25, 2014
The strategic alliance will provide Tecomate with key wildlife products, processing facilities, distribution centers and sales through Pinnacle’s ever-growing retail network. Read More
ManagementFranken Presses White House On RFS Support
July 25, 2014
Al Franken and a group of Senate democrats recently met with senior White House official John Podesta to urge the administration to change its position on an EPA proposal. Read More
ManagementASA, FarmLink To Launch ‘Operation Benchmark̵…
July 25, 2014
The American Soybean Association (ASA) and FarmLink are teaming up to help farmers close the $11 billion gap between what they harvested in 2013 and what they could harvest annually. Read More
StewardshipNorthey: Farmers Commit $1.4 Million to Try New Water Q…
July 25, 2014
The practices that are eligible for funding include cover crops, no-till or strip till and using a nitrification inhibitor when applying fall fertilizer. Read More
Precision AgFarmers Learn How Changing World Will Impact Iowa
July 24, 2014
Technology and understanding global consumer demand for Iowa farm products brought hundreds of farmers and agribusiness leaders to Ames recently for the annual Iowa Farm Bureau Federation Economic Summit. Read More
HerbicidesPurdue: Late Season Weeds May Require Manual Removal
July 24, 2014
Hand-rouging and pulling late season weeds by hand may be the best way to remove them, more so than using a herbicide, a Purdue Extension weed scientist says. Read More
Soybean Field
InsecticidesTransform WG, Closer SC Insecticides Receive R&D 10…
July 23, 2014
Dow AgroSciences has received the award from R&D Magazine for Transform WG insecticide and Closer SC insecticide with Isoclast active. Read More
EquipmentKinze, Raven Team Up On 4900 Planter Monitor
July 23, 2014
Kinze Manufacturing announces a partnership with Raven Industries to develop a standalone monitor solution for the Kinze 4900 series planter. With this new Read More
LegislationNew Farm Bill Continues To Confuse As Growers Await USD…
July 23, 2014
The new five-year Farm Bill eliminates many of the direct payments previously payed to growers and could benefit from USDA clarification, reports a Toledo Blade columnist. Read More
EquipmentPrecisionAg.com Relaunches With Responsive Design For M…
July 22, 2014
PrecisionAg, the worldwide leader in precision agriculture information and analysis, announces the launch of its completely redesigned website, PrecisionAg.com. Read More
FungicidesEPA OKs Two Willowood Fungicides
July 21, 2014
The EPA has approved Willowood Azoxy 2SC and Willowood AzoxyProp Xtra. two widely used broad spectrum, preventative fungicides with systemic and curative properties. Read More
Precision AgFarmers Learning Fast As UAVs Take Off
July 17, 2014
Farmers and others interested in how UAVs can be used in agricultural applications were able to learn more about the technology during the recent Precision Aerial Ag Show. Read More
CropLife 100Bobby Knight, Richard Petty To Highlight Ag PhD Field D…
July 17, 2014
Attendees at the July 24 Ag PhD Field Day at Hefty Farms will learn about the latest agricultural technologies, and get a chance to meet legendary sports figures Bobby Knight and Richard Petty. Read More
WebinarsUpcoming Webinars
July 17, 2014
Register for one of our upcoming Webinars or access our archive of past Webinars to view recordings of presentations that may be of interest to you. Read More