Selecting the right wetting agent
October 6, 2021 Sponsored by by Marmic Solutions
The global wetting agent sales arena can be very complex, often confusing and requires a lot of strategic planning, as well as due diligence on the part of the agronomists and turf managers alike when selecting the right products. With so many products and options available in the marketplace, what information can you trust and which products are the best fit when correcting adverse soil conditions?
No one wants to make a mistake on which product they choose to apply, especially when wetting agents can take up a good chunk of the budget. The consumers often seek independent research and data to confirm what their soil issues actually are, so they can zero in on their problems first. Once that has been determined, they can make an educated selection on the proper wetting agent to deal with a specific problem.
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The best wetting agents on the market are backed by proven research and development results. Reputable developers can layout a proper plan for the users, by equating their product’s benefits, as it relates to the specific soil issues. Accordingly, these particular wetting agents often carry a higher price tag and can be quite costly for the average budget.
Some wetting agents are made available, but are sold with limited field trial or academic research to back up the claims of the distributor. So, how does the turf manager disseminate all of these factors going in? How can they choose the option that is best suited for them? How can they be aware if there are unsubstantiated claims attached to the marketing of such products? Often, the turf manager ends up playing a season-to-season juggling act, trying the latest “flavour-of-the-day” products, in an attempt to find the right answer.
Agronomists and turf managers know how important soil structure is to the overall health of the plant. A good soil structure will allow air and water into the soil which are vital for healthy plant growth. It improves drainage and reduces soil erosion, caused by excess surface runoff. Without proper soil structure, soils will suffer from anaerobism (loss of oxygen), waterlogging and nutrient lock-up and, ultimately, the plants will die.
There are several treatments that can help increase the soil structure’s health. These include: cultural practices, excess water (a luxury you may not have), bio-stimulants, increasing the surface area of the soil and, of course, applying wetting agents.
Wetting agents are one tool that can be beneficial to a good soil structure. These products help with the imbalance of critical values in the soil. Helping alleviate the consequences of localized dry spots (LDS), uneven distribution of applied inputs (chemicals/fertilizers) and runoff (ponding). There is one wetting agent which has also been proven to reduce nutrient leaching and allows the nutrients which are locked up to be available to the plant and roots.
There are more than 200-plus labeled wetting agents on the market today. Many of those are available in Canada. Stan Kostka, Ph.D. Penn State-Berks, led a TurfNet webinar, on Feb. 20, 2019, on “Water Movement in Soil and Soil Surfactants – No BS Here!” In that webinar, it was surprising to learn that about 40 per cent of labeled wetting agents on the market today are the same chemistry. The market is clearly flooded with products, however, only about one to two per cent are actually new patented chemistries. Even in this market, there is room for better wetting agents – ones that not only have the typical characteristics of wetting agents, but can do all that and more.
The wetting agent market is more than 55 years old, with “newer” technology that is roughly 13 years old. Recently, AgStone™ LLC recognized that it was time for a superior multi-functional product that was cost effective and truly environmentally friendly. With their extensive chemical background, knowledge of the industry and experience in horticulture/agriculture, the journey to develop Fairway Fourway™ began.
AgStone agreed with the global emphasis on “going green” and that Fairway Fourway would fill that need in today’s market. Before applying for US and International patents, Fairway Fourway was extensively tested in university research studies and numerous field trials, to confirm the chemistry was “environmentally friendly,” while providing more benefits than most traditional wetting agents.
The result of their work, in cooperation with Clemson University and The University of Saskatchewan, was a well-rounded wetting agent that did more than just reduce surface tension, reduce localized dry spots and be a “flusher.” Their invention was shown to reduce water consumption, increase the nitrogen efficiency (between 60 and 100 per cent, depending on the soil type) in the plant tissue and reduce leaching by up to 50 per cent. This chemistry can be used to dial into the turf manager’s agronomy program, based on the desired properties and characteristics. Based on soil type and dosage rate, the product has the ability to provide multiple benefits. At lower dosage rates, it works as a penetrant and provides localized dry spot reduction. At average dosage rates, it provides soil moisture uniformity and increased nitrogen efficiency. Research has also proven the product has no burn potential, no phytotoxicity, and it does not have to be watered in.
AgStone LLC, which is recognized worldwide, was recently granted registration by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). The process to register Fairway Fourway, so it could be sold as a wetting agent in Canada, through its Canadian distributor, Marmic Solutions, took more than two years to complete, and a thorough examination of the chemistry was completed by the CFIA. Part of its investigation criteria included: heavy metal verification (which there are none), academic research assurances (trial results), biodegradability results (98 per cent biodegradable, as determined by the Zahn-Wellens method).
When it comes to turf management programs, most managers are “doing the right things” toward maintaining healthy turf at acceptable standards, but the elite managers are “doing things right” to guarantee that success. Taking a “proactive approach in the product selection process” can only ensure this success.
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