Adjuvant Know-How Can Boost Sales

Sprayer nozzles ( Sonja Begemann )

One of the keys to pesticide efficacy is the right adjuvant. Are you prepared to talk to your customers about the tank-mix options they should consider?

“When a farmer buys a tractor, they know they have to put fuel and oil in it to make it go. It’s the same with pesticides. You have to put adjuvants in the tank to make it ‘go,’” says Ryan Wolf, agronomy services manager at WinField United. “Adjuvants make whatever you put in the tank—herbicides, insecticides or fungicides—do what it’s supposed to do better.”

Adjuvants can provide additional sales to pesticides and improve performance. When talking to farmers, know how to talk about water’s impact on pesticides. 

Know the types of adjuvants. “Education not only for your customer but for yourself is key to stay caught up not only on active ingredients but in the adjuvant world, too,” says Paul Gerdes, CHS agronomy director of proprietary products. There are four general categories of adjuvants, according to Gerdes:

  • Drift and deposition: keeps the application in the field and helps penetrate through the crop canopy.
  • Plant absorption: typically an oil that penetrates the waxy cuticle and allows the application to get into the plant better.
  • Spreader, sticker: a surfactant of some sort that helps so the application doesn’t shear off the leaf and instead sticks to the plant.
  • Multifunctional: does any of the above or a combination.

Overcome misconceptions. In-can or premixed adjuvants were popular in pesticides in the past but aren’t as much anymore because they don’t address the unique needs of each farm or chemical. There are many myths still surrounding adjuvants that your salespeople might need to bust to make a sale.

“Not all adjuvants are created equal. There are over 4,000 adjuvants on the market,” says Bill Smith, Helena strategic marketing manager. “Understanding where products come from and how they’re developed is important—there aren’t a lot of regulations for adjuvants. We take pride in what we develop.”

Show farmers the proof is in the pudding—so to speak. Find field trials and other efficacy studies that prove the product you’re selling does what it is labeled to do.

“2,4-D and dicamba are very different,” Gerdes says. “This includes what adjuvants you can use with them. I think most retailers realize that, but downstream, that can be a misconception.”

With new auxin herbicides, work with your farmer-customers to help them understand what adjuvants can safely be used with each—and don’t assume what works for one will work for the other.

“Be cautious about all-in-one adjuvants,” Wolf says. “Yes, they can do a lot, but they can’t always do it well. You might carry a multi-tool on your belt, but you’re not going to use that to overhaul an engine. You want the right tools. It’s the same with adjuvants.”

This comes down to fitting the adjuvant to the field, farmer and chemical being used. While there might be some multi-tool options, make sure the selected adjuvant is truly meeting your customer’s needs.

“The adjuvant market is predicted to grow 3% to 5% over the next decade,” Smith says. “It’s going to take a lot of education about how these products work and having a good relationship with the grower. Know their issues, weather, planting concerns, the whole application scenario, and choose the best product for ROI.” 

H2Oh-No! Avoid Hard Water Mishaps

Without the right adjuvant or water additive, the minerals in water can tie up part of the active ingredient in the pesticide, rendering it less effective.

“Calcium, magnesium and iron can tie up pesticides so they can’t be absorbed by the plant,” sales Katie Miesse, Helena adjuvant brand manager. Miesse recommends retailers work with farmers to test their water, and based on those findings, locate an additive that will make sure the active ingredient keeps its potency. 

“A lot of chemicals react in the tank, like glyphosate and glufosinate,” Wolf says. “You could tie up 20% to 30% of your chemical in the tank before it gets out of the sprayer—that’s an extreme, but it can happen depending how hard the water is.”