Surfactants, crop oils, water conditioners, tank cleaners, and more… there’s a lot to sort through when considering the adjuvant market. Industry experts say there are close to, if not more than, 2,000 adjuvant products on the market today.
“I get the question a lot if there are differences in adjuvants, and yes, there are,” says Dr. Bryan Young of Purdue University. “But the problem is those differences don’t always come to light when you test or use commercially because adjuvants perform based on the environment.”
Young publishes the Compendium of Herbicide Adjuvants with the 14th edition pending publication but expected before the fall of 2020. It will detail more than 800 products from 45 manufacturers.
Application consistency is critical, he says.
“More important than ever is making sure every time you apply a herbicide you are optimizing the activity, and that’s just what adjuvants are designed to help do,” he says. “We should be stewarding herbicides as best as we can. If the adjuvant costs more than the herbicide component, think about that cost, but also think about the cost of failure. It’s more than just the price in the tank. Investing in an adjuvant helps you achieve the goal of not letting the herbicide fail.”
While each of the roughly 14 categories of adjuvants has its specific role, that job is being heightened by factors such as weed resistance and the complexity of the products (some claim two or more functionalities, for example).
The Council of Producers and Distributors of Agrotechnology (CPDA) is a non-profit association with members including Helena, Nutrien, Wilbur-Ellis, Winfield United and most other major distributors in the U.S., and in total its member companies represent 90% of the adjuvant market in the U.S.
Joe Gednalske is manager of members and value promotion for CPDA and says these are the three biggest factors in adjuvant use:
- Making a crop application without a required adjuvant. He says this can lead to a 30% to 90% reduction in performance of that application.
- Selecting the wrong type of adjuvant. Gednalske says this leads to an increased risk of crop injury as well as a 5% to 50% reduction in performance.
- Selecting a good enough vs. premium adjuvant. He says research shows a 5% to 25% performance gap depending on adjuvant quality.
He explains CPDA is working to educate ag retailers and farmers on overall adjuvant awareness and the association’s certification program. That certification was launched in 2001 as a voluntary program, and it has 17 benchmarks so all claims meet American Society for Testing and Materials definitions.
Today, more than 480 herbicide labels recommend the use of CPDA certified adjuvants.
“Adjuvants are important decisions. Look at the challenges retailers and growers have in making the right adjuvant selection. There’s a lot on the line to make sure herbicides work. And during these times when ag retailers aren’t able to call on growers in-person, it makes it an even harder task,” Gednalske says.