Rising input costs, supply issues and optimising nutrient-use efficiency have dominated the press in recent months, and while there’s been a great deal of emphasis on N applications and making every application count, the same ethos applies to crop protection inputs.

The reality is that even the best products can face performance barriers, which often start in the spray tank.

Additional weak spots in the spray delivery process may present further obstacles to the optimum coverage and uptake required for effective weed, disease, and lodging control. So how can growers improve efficiency and get more from every application?

Overlooked and often under-utilised, an effective adjuvant is a ‘quick win’ to remove many of the constraints on performance, explains Stuart Sutherland, technical manager at Interagro. “With its tank to tissue performance benefits, Interagro’s product, Kantor, is a versatile all-rounder that’s easy to use and offers significant benefits to growers.”

But what exactly are these benefits?

  1. Ensures mixes are compatible and stable in the spray tank

Tank-mixing chemicals improves efficiency, but an incompatible mix can cause antagonism and reduce efficacy in the field, explains Stuart Sutherland. “Incompatibility can be caused by complex mixes, cold water, very hard water, or incorrect mixing order, and it’s not always visible unless there’s a build-up of residue on nozzle filters or severe blockages in the tank or lines. However, only crop protection products fully dissolved in the spray tank will perform to their potential in the field.

“Alkaline water (>pH7) can break down some herbicides, fungicides and PGRs through a process called alkaline hydrolysis.

“The longer a mixed chemical is left in the tank prior to spraying, the greater the breakdown can be. However, reduced product performance may not be obvious.”

In some cases, the influence of water on the crop protection products reduces its effectiveness only slightly, yet enough that tolerant or tough-to-control weeds and diseases may be poorly controlled, adds Stuart Sutherland. “However, Kantor provides strong pH buffering, preventing alkaline hydrolysis. This ensures stability in the tank and applications remain fast and effective in the field.”

Kantor’s ability to make mixing easy, and stable in the tank are benefits valued by both farmers and agronomists. Stuart McDowall, agronomist with Agrii has seen this first-hand.

Predominantly covering the North Lincolnshire area, he explains that it’s an incredibly useful product for a number of reasons. “With regards to stabilising products in the tank, it’s becoming more frequent to use an increasing number of products in the mix – sometimes up to eight.

“This is done largely to make the most of an application window as UK weather is renowned for being catchy. However, some of these products can cause antagonism and this reduces efficacy in the field.

“This is where Kantor comes in by aiding tank-mix compatibility and also buffers the water to prevent alkaline hydrolysis.

“I’ve used it regularly with Basagran (bentazone) to help with safety in beans and have seen some really good results.”

  1. Maximises delivery to the target leaf/ear during spray application

Spray drift is a risk to every application and occurs when ultra-fine droplets in the spray mixture are carried away by air movement. “This reduces the effective dose and coverage applied, reducing efficacy. Drift-reducing nozzles take care of the drift issue but don’t help coverage as they produce bigger droplets,” explains Stuart Sutherland.

He adds that Kantor reduces the number of ultra-fine spray droplets and helps to maintain a more uniform droplet spectrum. “This results in a more targeted application of sprays to weeds and crop canopies.”

Watch Kantor anti-drift video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=idO-HBh5gzk

  1. Optimises coverage across the leaf/ear

Achieving effective coverage across the target leaf/ear is crucial for effective weed and disease control, particularly when it comes to contact herbicide and protectant fungicide applications this spring. But this can be really challenging, particularly with very waxy leaves or hairy weeds, explains Stuart Sutherland.

“This applies to many applications, including ear sprays in wheat, sclerotinia sprays in oilseed rape or chocolate spot sprays in beans, where it may be crucial to get fungicide into the nooks and crannies of crops to block invading fungi that will exploit any gaps in protection.”

Stuart McDowall says that this is another opportunity for Kantor to provide aid to concerned growers. “Kantor reduces surface tension between the spray solution and the leaf/ear surface, enabling spray droplets to spread out and be retained. This optimises the coverage and contact between active ingredients and the leaf/ear surface for more reliable protection.

“Effectively, it enables the product to be placed exactly where it should be on the crop.

“Again, with unpredictable weather patterns in the UK, we don’t tend to get many ‘ideal’ spray days, so this reduces risk and optimises spray quality and I’ve seen positive effects across a range of cereal crops.”

  1. Maximises uptake/delivery into the leaf

Delivering active ingredients inside leaf tissue is a crucial final step in effective product application but the waxy cuticle on the outside of the leaf is also the biggest barrier to this and can therefore constrain efficacy, explains Stuart Sutherland. “As crops/weeds increase in growth stage, cuticles become thicker and tougher to penetrate.

“Very waxy weeds/crops like fat hen and brassicas are particularly awkward. It’s also important to keep in mind that some products such as prothioconazole and trinexapac-ethyl are metabolically activated so, for these, speed of uptake is crucial.”

Oil-based adjuvants can improve penetration into the leaf by modifying (solubilising) leaf surface waxes, but these can cause injury if applied with a herbicide under less-than-ideal moisture conditions, he warns. “Kantor’s mode of action is unique – it increases the number of molecules per square unit that are in contact with the cuticle, which increases the number of entry points – like increasing the number of lanes on a motorway. However, it doesn’t disrupt the cuticular wax as most adjuvants do.”

Getting the most from fungicides is essential for the longevity of the crop protection market, adds Stuart McDowall. “The more actives we lose, the less tools there are in our product armoury. We’ve got one or two new actives on the horizon and it’s essential that we protect them. Making sure that applications are optimised is one way of doing this, and I believe that ensuring delivery into the leaf not only maximises uptake but also ‘drip feeds’ the product, meaning we achieve more curative disease control.

“Overall Kantor is an incredibly useful product and one I will be using to optimise performance again this season.”

Kantor brings compatibility to tank mixes, reliability in suboptimal application conditions, and versatility in use, making it a perfect match for spring plant protection spray programmes to help maximise performance and returns.

Find out more, see the trials results here: https://www.interagro.co.uk/kantor-your-perfect-match-for-unbeatable-performance/