With the world’s population estimated to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, meeting global food demand presents an enormous challenge for the agriculture industry. To feed this many people, crop yields will need to increase substantially. While factors like improving seeds and irrigation play key roles, crop protection products like herbicides, insecticides, and surfactants are also vital for enabling higher productivity. This is especially true for silicone surfactant, an indispensable yet often overlooked component in today’s agricultural systems.
Silicone surfactant is a vital additive and enhancer used to improve the performance of agrochemical sprays. Surfactants reduce the surface tension of spray solutions, allowing them to spread over leaves more uniformly. This maximizes coverage and uptake of active ingredients.
Silicone surfactants are unique because the silicone portion provides ultra-low surface tension, letting spray droplets spread to form a thin, uniform film instead of beading up. This complete spread and coverage is essential for pesticides, fertilizers, plant growth regulators, and other products to perform optimally.
When spray droplets bead up instead of spreading out, they are much more prone to run off plants and onto the soil. By maximizing leaf spread, silicone surfactants greatly improve solution retention and absorption into the plant. This translates to higher efficacy from pesticides and nutrients.
Silicone surfactants also facilitate uptake through the hydrophobic outer layer of plant leaves. Absorption rates of some pesticides have been shown to more than double when applied with silicone adjuvant. Their ability to boost efficacy allows lower application rates of actives, greatly improving economics and environmental profile.
Many common crop protection chemicals like glyphosate are susceptible to a process called alkaline hydrolysis which degrades them under high pH conditions. Mixing hard water or adjuvant incompatibility often increases spray mixture pH. The built-in buffering capacity allows silicone surfactants to protect unstable actives from alkaline degradation.
Spray solutions stay in the optimal stability zone longer, safeguarding performance. This buffering capacity is a prime reason silicone surfactant is favored for use with contact pesticides and especially glyphosate formulations.
Getting spray solutions to adhere securely onto foliage until they are absorbed is vital for good performance. However, rain, irrigation, or even heavy dew can wash uncured spray residues off plants. By aiding rapid solution uptake and cuticle penetration, silicone surfactants greatly reduce wash-off risk.
Tests show that using silicone surfactant results in over twice as much herbicide residue remaining on plant leaves after rainfall compared to traditional surfactants. Boosting rain fastness results in more reliable and consistent field performance.
Spray drift leads to wasted product which increases application costs. And off-target movement can cause serious damage to nearby crops. But drift reduction adjuvants added to spray tanks can’t completely eliminate risk when applicators use fine droplets for good coverage.
Silicone surfactant’s rapid absorption into plant foliage curbs drift issues by reducing the length of time spray droplets remain “uncured” on leaf surfaces. Less opportunity for spray droplets to drift significantly improves application precision and stewardship.
Complex mixes of chemicals with various adjuvants are commonplace in agricultural spraying. But when formulas are not properly balanced, compatibility problems like insoluble precipitates can form, plugging up nozzles. Built-in molecular compatibility and electrolyte tolerance make silicone surfactant an excellent tank-mix dispersant and emulsifier.
Adding silicone surfactant smoothes out spray mixture rheology, prevents layer separation, and keeps insoluble particles finely suspended. This eliminates blockage and ensures uniform distribution during application.
The glossy cuticle coating on many weed species makes it harder to wet and retain spray deposits. And hairy leaves found on species like velvetleaf intercept spray droplets, preventing contact with the leaf surface below. Strong intermolecular bonding allows silicone to rapidly penetrate tough-to-wet, waxy plant cuticles.
The surfactant’s low surface tension enables it to coat and spread over dense leaf hairs. Boosting the spread and coverage of problematic weed species improves herbicide uptake and translates to better burndown.
Row crops like soybeans and cotton are prone to collecting moisture from rainfall or heavy dew. If spray residues aren’t fully absorbed, they can be washed and wiped off by water droplets on the leaves.
Adding silicone surfactant builds rain fastness by accelerating spray droplet drying and penetration into the foliage. Faster diffusion through the cuticle layer also reduces fluidity and makes residues adhere tighter. Less wash-off exposure allows optimal pesticide dose to remain on target for full efficacy.
Using smaller spray droplets improves product distribution and target coverage but droplets under 150 microns evaporate quickly. Rapid moisture loss concentrates droplets down to the point where they can crystallize. Adjuvants must retain fluidity so that ultra-fine mists remain bioavailable.
Silicone limits evaporative losses by diffusing through microscopic droplets faster to form a smooth, continuous film. Enhanced barrier properties ensure micro-droplets don’t dehydrate prematurely but stay fluid until they absorb. Finer droplet optimization expands application windows and improves drift reduction efforts.
Innovations like pulse-width modulation, electrostatic charge, and aerial drone spraying allow major gains in precision and efficiency but have downsides. Smaller droplets, longer residency times, and electric charge make spray solutions much more prone to drift, evaporation, and poor retention. Since silicone so effectively accentuates spreading, retention, and absorption, it’s the perfect mitigator to overcome the deficiencies of these cutting-edge delivery platforms. Using silicone adjuvant makes the adoption of new efficient application technologies with lower environmental impact viable.
As the essential interface between plant and spray droplet, silicone surfactant is indispensable for modern agriculture. Boosting spread, absorption, and rain fastness, silicone adjuvant maximizes pesticide and nutrient performance. Smoothing compatibility, enhancing stability, and facilitating precision further expand critical benefits.
Mitigating the challenges of new spray technologies while improving sustainability makes silicone adjuvant vital for meeting future global food security needs. With capabilities unmatched by any other adjuvant, silicone surfactant plays an integral role in enabling the next wave of agricultural innovation and productivity gains.
ROMAKK Silicones emerges as a crucial partner in advancing modern agriculture. ROMAKK Silicones is an Indian manufacturer of Specialty Silicones for the world. With unmatched capabilities, their silicone surfactants pave the way for increased productivity, sustainability, and innovation in the agrochemical industry. By addressing the challenges of today and tomorrow, ROMAKK Silicones is empowering farmers to meet the ever-growing global food demand and secure the future of agriculture.
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