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. 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

Young soybean field
HerbicidesLiquid Formulation Valor EZ Herbicide Available For 2017
December 1, 2016
Valent U.S.A. Corp. has released Valor EZ; a liquid formulation of the company’s leading herbicide, Valor. Named Valor EZ Herbicide Read More
HerbicidesNew Technology Offers ALS-Resistant Weed Control In Wheat
November 16, 2016
From searching for profitability in depressed wheat prices, to deciding among countless input options, wheat growers have a lot on Read More
CPP, glyphosate, dicamba, atrazine,
Crop InputsDeveloping Story: FDA Discontinues Glyphosate Residue Food Testing Program
November 15, 2016
Via The Huffington Post:  Government testing for residues of an herbicide that has been linked to cancer has been put Read More
Palmer amaranth
HerbicidesNDSU: Check Pollinator, Habitat Plots For Palmer Amaranth
November 14, 2016
North Dakota State University officials are asking anyone who has planted wildlife plots, to enhance honeybee and other pollinators, to Read More
Trending Articles
Precision AgTrimble Debuts End-to-End FMIS Platform
November 28, 2016
October’s inaugural PrecisionAg Vision Conference left this author with many thoughts and things to ponder in the coming months. Probably Read More
CHS Primeland
CropLife 100The 2016 CropLife 100 Report: Reviewing The Many Bulls And Bears Impacting This Year’s Marketplace
November 28, 2016
For virtually all of 2016, the nation was wholly focused on the big Presidential election. Some folks aligned themselves with Read More
Monsanto sign
Crop InputsMissouri Governor Meets With Bayer CEO To Discuss Monsanto Merger
November 21, 2016
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon visited Bayer AG global headquarters in Leverkusen, Germany, on November 18 to discuss the proposed Bayer-Monsanto Read More
STS16 2017
SprayersHagie Manufacturing Releases 2017 STS16 Sprayer To Market
November 16, 2016
Hagie Manufacturing LLC’s largest full season applicator is now available with enhancements for the 2017 model year. Hagie is officially Read More
Wilco
CropLife 100Valley Agronomics, Wilco-Winfield To Form New Agronomy Joint Venture
November 11, 2016
Valley Agronomics LLC, headquartered in Rupert, ID, is a joint venture between Valley Wide Cooperative and Winfield Solutions, LLC. Wilco-Winfield, Read More
FertilizerThe Fertilizer Institute Issues Statement On The U.S. Elections
November 10, 2016
The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) President Chris Jahn has issued the following statement on the results of the 2016 elections: “TFI Read More
Latest News
ManagementCorn and soy planting update; Takeaways from Climate Co…
December 2, 2016
AgriBusiness Global Editor Dave Frabotta Joins Paul Schrimpf for a discussion of global corn and soybean planting trends, and a Read More
Radish cover crop taproot
Crop InputsSoil Health Institute, Datu Research Receive Grant To E…
December 1, 2016
The Soil Health Institute (SHI) and Datu Research has announced a $626,000 grant from the Walton Family Foundation to quantify Read More
Mike Stern
Precision AgClimate Corp. CEO Talks Retailer Support For Digital Ag
December 1, 2016
CropLife Magazine’s sister publication, AgriBusiness Global, recently sat down with Mike Stern, CEO of The Climate Corp., following the Monsanto subsidiary’s Read More
ManagementAg Industry Comes Together To Address Climate Change
December 1, 2016
Addressing climate change — and more specifically, decreasing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture — can only be achieved through collective Read More
Young soybean field
HerbicidesLiquid Formulation Valor EZ Herbicide Available For 201…
December 1, 2016
Valent U.S.A. Corp. has released Valor EZ; a liquid formulation of the company’s leading herbicide, Valor. Named Valor EZ Herbicide Read More
Key Cooperative Marcus Construction Steel Building
ManagementThe Value Of Cooperatives In Modern Agriculture
December 1, 2016
Editor’s Note: Jaxon Mullinnix of  Lone Tree, IA, was recently named the Iowa state winner of the 2017 GROWMARK essay Read More
AGCO Operator of the Year Tony Kornder
SprayersAGCO Names Tony Kornder Operator Of The Year
December 1, 2016
AGCO Corp. names Tony Kornder with Genesis Growing Solutions in Le Sueur, MN, the 11th annual Operator of the Year. Read More
Chris Henney OABA
ManagementOABA Industry Conference To Provide Outlook For Future …
November 29, 2016
The upcoming Ohio AgriBusiness Association Industry Conference is packed with widely-respected speakers and industry professionals, sharing their expertise on a Read More
Corn
InsecticidesMajor Review Finds Neonic Poses Low Risk To Aquatic Inv…
November 28, 2016
A major new ecotoxicological review and risk assessment has been published in the peer-reviewed literature and concluded that registered crop Read More
EquipmentGSI Details New Grain Drying Efficiency System for Coop…
November 28, 2016
Grain elevators and ag co-ops are always looking for ways to increase their energy efficiency to help improve profitability. For Read More
Precision AgTrimble Debuts End-to-End FMIS Platform
November 28, 2016
October’s inaugural PrecisionAg Vision Conference left this author with many thoughts and things to ponder in the coming months. Probably Read More
AGCO AgControl system
Precision AgPrecision Ag Technology: Rate Control For The Times
November 28, 2016
It’s not surprising that the need for more economical, effective application is driving the demand for the latest rate controllers Read More
ARA
Eric SfiligojTaking The Industry’s Pulse At ARA
November 28, 2016
When most of you read this particular column, many of the industry’s key folks will probably be spending at least Read More
CHS Primeland
CropLife 100The 2016 CropLife 100 Report: Reviewing The Many Bulls …
November 28, 2016
For virtually all of 2016, the nation was wholly focused on the big Presidential election. Some folks aligned themselves with Read More
FertilizerNutrient Management, Conservation Among Topics Covered …
November 23, 2016
Certified crop advisers, consultants, farmers, agribusiness professionals and students will learn more about nutrient management, soil and water conservation, pest Read More
Monsanto sign
Crop InputsMissouri Governor Meets With Bayer CEO To Discuss Monsa…
November 21, 2016
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon visited Bayer AG global headquarters in Leverkusen, Germany, on November 18 to discuss the proposed Bayer-Monsanto Read More
Arysta LifeScience
Crop InputsArysta LifeScience Forms Alliance With Beem Biologics
November 21, 2016
As part of its recently announced strategy to become a leader in high-value, high-growth specialty market segments in the crop Read More
DuPont sign
Crop InputsDuPont To End Pension Contribution For Active Employees
November 18, 2016
DuPont will no longer contribute to active employees’ pension plans, a move that will affect the retirement of 13,000 workers, Read More