Don’t let spray dollars drift away

May 01, 2023

Now that we’re in the thick of the 2023 growing season, it’s high time to address the efficiency of your tank mixes. One easy mistake to make is to focus on the stars of the show — the herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides — while overlooking the supporting cast that needs to be present to make the whole production come off as it should.

These are the adjuvants.

Simply put, an adjuvant is any material added to a tank mix that aids or modifies the herbicide, insecticide, or fungicide. They allow the “star” to shine by helping it go where it’s supposed to go and do what it’s supposed to do. Conversely, adjuvants save money by allowing you to do the job properly the first time (canopy penetration and herbicide uptake) and keeping your product from catching a breeze and ending up in neighboring fields (drift agent). Data from WinField United’s patented Spray Analysis System has shown that without an adjuvant, up to 54% of spray volume can be lost before it even reaches its intended target. Think of those spray droplets as dollars — your dollars — that can drift away if you’re not careful.

Before you make your decisions about which adjuvant to use, first consider two things: your water and your target weed. Water conditioners are one class of adjuvants that can make a huge impact on herbicide efficacy, especially weak acid herbicides such as glyphosate, glufosinate, and 2,4-D. It’s easy to forget that your water has its own, unique composition, and minerals in water can tie up a product’s active ingredient in the spray tank, making it less effective on weeds. In addition, water conditioners help keep herbicides active on the leaf surface, where free cations (positively charged ions) from the soil and the plant bind up herbicide active ingredients. Also, some weeds have leaf hairs or a waxy cuticle that make it more difficult for an herbicide to penetrate. In that case, non-ionic surfactant, methylated seed oil, or crop oil added to the tank can help get the active ingredient into the plant for better weed control.

So now that you’ve considered your water and your target weed — if you’re spraying herbicide — let’s address the adjuvants themselves. Adjuvants can be placed into multiple types of categories, but for the purpose of this article, we will look at WinField United’s top five adjuvant products: Class Act® NG®, Destiny HC®, MasterLock®, UltraLock®, and StrikeLock®.

Class Act NG
This is a liquid spray tank additive designed to promote fast and aggressive weed control. Acting as a hard-water conditioner, Class Act NG meets the ammonium sulfate (AMS) requirements of glyphosate- and glufosinate-based herbicides while also protecting the herbicide from cation deactivation on the leaf surface. It contains a non-ionic surfactant and CornSorb® technology that works on the leaf surface to drive the herbicide into the plant. CornSorb® is designed to increase humectancy (the ability to retain moisture) and improve herbicide uptake.

Destiny HC
Destiny HC is a HSOC-MSO, or high surfactant oil concentrate methylated seed oil. Used with many oil-loving herbicides, it is most effective during hot, dry conditions by slowing the evaporation time of the water droplet and increasing its spread, which allows better herbicide uptake. During those brutal, Southern summer conditions, the wax on the weed leaf surface tends to thicken to protect the plant, and Destiny HC helps the herbicide penetrate that waxy layer.

MasterLock is referred to as a drift-reduction agent and a surfactant spreader sticker. Made for use with fungicides and insecticides, this adjuvant improves spray deposition (how the droplets fall) and canopy penetration, while helping to keep the product from drifting off course. MasterLock also enhances droplet sticking and spreading on the leaf surface, allowing for the proper uptake of the herbicide or fungicide. Even with V8-VT applications in corn, MasterLock is the go-to choice in those applications without worry of increasing arrested ear syndrome, a physiological disorder that can significantly reduce corn yields. This is because the DropTightTM surfactant technology in MasterLock is NPE free and does not contribute to arrested ear syndrome.

UltraLock is an all-purpose drift-reduction agent that was specifically designed for in-crop applications on the dicamba acre. This patent-pending formulation reduces fine particles and delivers more droplets in the ideal diameter without thickening the spray solution. UltraLock has been proven to reduce drift with dicamba tank mixes through ultra-coarse nozzles, and it is an approved DRA.

Like Destiny HC, StrikeLock is a HSCO-MSO, but adds drift and deposition technology to be used specifically with oil-loving herbicides. It also offers better-flowing oil versus a traditional, high-surfactant MSO.

I encourage not only row-crop farmers to use adjuvants in their tank mixes, but also livestock producers. These products will work equally well when spraying pasture herbicides and pre-emergents. Even landscaping companies use adjuvants to get the best coverage when spraying lawns for broad-leaf weeds.

For more help choosing the proper adjuvant for your spraying application, visit the professionals at your local Co-op.

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