Agriculture is crucial in sustaining the world’s burgeoning population, estimated to reach 9.7 billion by 2050. To meet the escalating demand for food, farmers need to increase crop yields, which entails protecting their crops from pests, weeds, and diseases.
To this point, they employ various agrochemicals such as herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides. However, the efficacy of these chemicals is not always optimal when used alone, necessitating the use of adjuvants. We look at two of agriculture’s most widely used adjuvants today; crop oil concentrates (COCs) and surfactants. But first, we explore what adjuvants are.
What Are Adjuvants
Adjuvants refer to a class of substances that are incorporated into herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, and other agricultural chemicals to enhance their efficacy. Adding adjuvants to these agrochemicals augments their absorption, penetration, and retention on the target surface, improving their overall performance in controlling pests and diseases.
Adjuvants can come in various forms, notably crop oil concentrates (COCs) and surfactants. However, other forms of adjuvants include stickers, penetrants, compatibility agents, and buffering agents. Each adjuvant type has unique characteristics and advantages, making them suitable for specific applications. However, we focus on the two most prevalent types.
Crop Oil Concentrates
Crop oil concentrates (COCs) are classified as adjuvants used to amplify the effectiveness of herbicides and other agricultural chemicals. COCs are formulated through a blend of highly refined oils, surfactants, and other specialized components that are purposed to augment the performance of active ingredients in the herbicide.
The primary objective of COCs is to facilitate the penetration of these agrochemicals through the waxy cuticle of plant leaves while increasing the retention of the herbicide on the intended surface.
Crop oil concentrates pack a potent punch with their high concentration of petroleum-based oils and surfactants; however, overusing or incorrectly applying them can spell trouble for the plants. COCs run a higher risk of phytotoxicity when exposed to unfavorable environmental conditions. In this case, chemicals cause damage to plant tissue, resulting in growth inhibition, leaf discoloration, or even plant death.
Hence, it’s crucial to exercise caution while applying COCs and use them in the right quantities at the appropriate time to avoid any potential harm to the crops. The recommended mixing ratio for COCs and herbicides is around 1-2%, which can help unlock the full potential of the herbicide and bolster its performance.
We’ve already mentioned surfactants as a significant chemical composition of crop oil concentrates. These chemical compounds possess unique properties of hydrophilicity (attraction to water) and hydrophobicity (repulsion to water). These versatile chemicals have found widespread usage as adjuvants in the agricultural industry due to their ability to amplify the performance of herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides.
One primary benefit of surfactants is how effectively they reduce the surface tension of water. In doing so, they facilitate the even spread of agrochemicals over the plant surface, increase their coverage and penetration, and boost their effectiveness in combatting pests and diseases. Hence, incorporating surfactants in agricultural practices can lead to more efficient crop protection and higher crop yields.
The world of surfactants is incredibly diverse, with various forms available to cater to different needs. These include nonionic, anionic, cationic, and amphoteric surfactants. Among these, nonionic surfactants reign supreme in the agricultural sector, thanks to their proven efficacy and low toxicity levels.
To achieve the best results, farmers and growers typically mix these nonionic surfactants with herbicides at a recommended ratio of 0.25-1%, ensuring that the active ingredient reaches its maximum potential while minimizing the risk of phytotoxicity.
Crop Oil Concentrates vs. Surfactants: Which is Better?
Choosing between crop oil concentrates (COCs) and surfactants in agricultural applications is a decision that hinges on several crucial factors. Among these are the type of herbicide in use, the targeted weed species, the prevailing environmental conditions, and the application method.
- The Type of Herbicide
Typically, herbicides target specific biochemical processes or pathways within the plant, causing it to die or stop growing. Depending on the herbicide type, this process can be achieved systemically or through contact. In the case of systemic herbicides, COCs can enhance their ability to penetrate plant leaves and move efficiently within the plant, thus providing superior weed control.
However, when looking to enhance the performance of contact herbicides, surfactants are the preferred choice over COCs. Unlike systemic herbicides that require translocation within the plant to kill the entire weed, contact herbicides only need to come into direct contact with the target plant to be effective. This is where surfactants come into play, as they help the herbicide stick to the plant surface and penetrate its waxy cuticle, which can be difficult to penetrate without the aid of a surfactant.
- Environmental Conditions
The prevalent environmental conditions can only be considered in terms of phototoxicity. Crop oil concentrates are more prone to causing harm to plants than surfactants, especially under harsh environmental conditions, including high temperature, low humidity, extreme cold, wind, and rain.
Under these conditions, plants may become more vulnerable to phototoxicity from COCs, as the oils in these concentrates can significantly impact the plant’s ability to photosynthesize, absorb nutrients, and maintain overall health. Additionally, certain plant species may be more susceptible to phototoxicity from COCs than others, which is another vital factor to consider when using these adjuvants.
- Weed Specie
The weed specie is another significant factor influencing the choice between COCs and surfactants. Some weeds have a thick waxy layer on their leaves, making it difficult for herbicides to penetrate and reach the target site. In this case, COCs may be more effective as they contain highly refined oils to help herbicides penetrate the waxy cuticle and reach the target site.
On the other hand, weeds with a more delicate leaf surface are more susceptible to phototoxicity from using COCs. Hence, surfactants may be a better choice as they can reduce the surface tension of water, allowing herbicides to spread more evenly over the plant surface and increase their coverage and penetration.
- Application Method
The application method can also influence the choice between crop oil concentrates (COCs) and surfactants. When applying herbicides using ground equipment, such as sprayers, COCs are often preferred as they can improve the retention and coverage on the plant surface. This point is particularly relevant when dealing with large, dense, or stubborn weed species.
However, surfactants are the ideal option for aerial applications, where herbicides are sprayed from airplanes or helicopters, due to their ability to help the herbicide spread and stick to the plant surface, which can improve overall efficacy. It’s worth noting that the choice of adjuvant and application method should always be based on each situation’s specific needs and conditions to ensure the best possible outcome.
Ultimately, the choice between COCs and surfactants will depend mainly on the application’s specific needs. A thorough understanding of the active ingredients, the environment, and the target weeds are also essential for making an informed decision.
Streamline Your Adjuvant Shipping With Total Connection
Crop oil concentrates, and surfactants are two essential adjuvants used in agriculture to enhance the performance of agrochemicals. As we’ve seen, there is no preferred choice, with each option providing advantages and drawbacks depending on specific circumstances.
Therefore, farmers, growers, and other agricultural businesses must carefully consider these factors before choosing the appropriate adjuvant to ensure maximum efficacy and minimum plant and environmental damage risk. Once the decision have been made, it’s best to engage a competent shipping agent like Total Connection to streamline your shipping needs.
At Total Connection, we offer safe and easy broker services for shippers to connect with the rest of the world. Our industry-leading experts understand each shipping need and strive to meet all requirements. Ready to streamline your logistics operations for adjuvants shipping? Contact us today to discover how our solutions can help you improve efficiency, reduce costs, and enhance your bottom line.