Martin Edwards, Development Chemist, Camari (part of the Safapac Holdings Group), explains the consequences of micronutrient deficiency, and reveals a novel approach to dealing with the problem.
Like animals, plants require a certain amount of trace minerals to develop healthily. Plants lacking in essential trace elements are consequently more susceptible to disease than those growing where the correct levels are maintained. Diseases caused by such micronutrient deficiency need controlling – hence larger volumes of pesticide products will be required. It is therefore of major importance that the appropriate levels of minerals are delivered to the crops as they mature. ‘Aloy’ products are an efficient answer to micronutrient delivery, allowing an effective supply of minerals with minimal waste. The properties of these formulations mean they are of increasing interest in the agrochemical market, notably because they are often more cost effective over a season than the more traditional products that are commonly used.
Current practice background
There are three distinct levels of nutrients a plant needs to healthily grow and develop:
- Primary nutrients: Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (NPK) – needed in large quantities by the plant
- Secondary nutrients: Calcium, magnesium and sulphur – important but smaller quantities required
- Micronutrients: e.g. manganese, zinc, copper, boron, molybdenum etc.
It is largely accepted that for effective plant growth, the application of micronutrients should be within the first 30 days post crop emergence. Establishing a good root structure is of primary importance in producing a healthy crop that can withstand stress brought on by weather or attack by pests – this is something that can’t always be identified visually from the exterior plant (see Figure 1). Both current SL / SC formulations have problems with helping to establish this biomass – SLs tend to be washed away too soon whilst SCs take too long to be absorbed through the leaves to give the required doses.
What are ‘Aloy’ formulations and what are their benefits?
‘Aloy’ is a name used by Safagrow (a Safapac Holdings company) to describe a new concept in micronutrient delivery. These formulations are a hybrid of both a soluble liquid and a suspension concentrate – a class known as suspo emulsions (SEs). More specifically, these are in the form of an insoluble powder component suspended in a dilute metallic salt solution. By combining these two formulation types, Aloy products can reap the benefits of each whilst minimizing product wastage.
Similar to SCs, surfactants are present in Aloy formulations to aid with the suspension of particles; the surface tension of the spray solution is reduced. A better deposition of product on the leaf is resultantly achievable – leading to faster drying of the droplet. This in turn allows for an increased rain fastness whilst the surfactants also soften the leaf cuticular wax layer, which causes a better overall uptake of the micronutrients. The portion of soluble salt present also is low enough not to cause any tank mix problems.
By introducing a small amount of highly soluble salt into SCs in this way, Aloys give the crop an initial ‘boost’. This is particularly important with micronutrients like manganese, where the visual greening of the crop gives the user confidence that it is working. These formulations are more concentrated so have reduced handling, storage and transport costs.
Although the initial direct costs of Aloy formulations may appear high, in fact with less frequent and reduced rates of application a season long campaign could be less expensive than traditional products. The combination of benefits from both types of conventional application methods means Aloy formulations present a solution to many of the problems associated with