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Solvay: Drift Control and Deposition Adjuvants for Agricultural Applicationqrcode

Oct. 26, 2018

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Oct. 26, 2018
UAV crop protection is a growing trend worldwide, in particular China, with agricultural drones providing all-in-one solutions primarily for precision farming and spraying of crops. This trend impacts tank mix adjuvants which are a key additive to enhance efficiency of drone spray. Based on Solvay 25 years’ experience in this field, we reflect on trends in this market as well as on the future of innovation in tank mix adjuvants, with a focus on drone spray in China.

What are tank mix adjuvants?

Tank Mix adjuvants are added directly to the farmer’s tank together with the pesticide to improve the performance of the active ingredients, and mitigate negative effects such as drift and bouncing. Adjuvants are classified according to the benefit they bring: spray performance (water conditioning, drift control,…) or activator (retention, spreading,…). As spray drift and deposition are complex and depend on a large set of criteria (spray characteristics, equipment, weather,…), expertise in formulation as well as appropriate best in class technologies are needed.

The global tank mix adjuvant market is estimated at 1 Billion USD globally, with North America representing about 70% of this market. While surfactants (NIS) and oil-based adjuvants (Crop Oil Concentrates COC and Methylated Seed Oils MSO) make up 50% of the total market, Drift-Reduction Agents (DRA) have received tremendous attention from the market lately also due to evolving regulation globally. With innovation as a main driving force, Solvay is a leader and pioneer in the development of DRA products.

Solvay decades of drift control and deposition adjuvants

Solvay has been a leading formulator of tank mix adjuvants for agricultural applications for more than 25 years. Besides those large commodity categories of adjuvants, one particular category of tank mix adjuvants - Drift-Reduction Agents (DRA) - has received a lot of attention from the markets lately. DRA is a 150 Million USD market globally. As a leader and pioneer of DRA, Solvay first introduced guar-based dry adjuvants in the US market in 1996 after years of collaboration with Princeton University. A decade later, water-based liquid guar DRA was developed as the first multi-functional products (DRA + NIS + activator).

Innovation has always been the main driving force behind Solvay portfolio of DRA tank mix products, and the pace of new product introduction has increased in the past few years. On the guar technology frontline, Solvay’s Starguar® latest generation of oil-based multifunctional adjuvants offer the multifunctionnality of drift control, NIS and MSO.

Launched in 2015 Starguar® Control was the first DRA prescribed for new dicamba formulations and approved by the U.S. EPA as a mandatory DRA to mitigate the risk of off-target movement control for in-crop use on soybean. It was successfully commercialized and it is now the reference of drift control in US agriculture (used on 30 million hectare of row crops in 2017). Future developments for systems combining dicamba and glufosinate are currently under development in Solvay Agricutural Applications Labs in the US, Brazil, France and China.

The internationalization of its portfolio of tank mix adjuvants is a top priority for Solvay, as regulation agencies, agrochemical formulators and agronomists across the world are starting to embrace the benefits of drift control, retention and penetration of the pesticide spray tank.

In Europe, regulation aimed at reducing the amount of pesticide spray while maintaining the same control performance for farmers put DRA adjuvants at the center of the approval agenda for new chemistries of active ingredient.

In Brazil and Australia, the new dicamba based herbicide systems launched in the US for cotton and soybean will reach the market with a similar emphasis on controlling drift and off-target movement control. Fungicide resistance is a key battle in Brazil to fight off Asian soybean rust, and the use of retention aids and rain fastness adjuvants can boost and extend the performance of fungicide chemistries (carboxamides, strobylurins and azoles), as demonstrated in field plots using Starguar® technology.

In Southeast Asia and China, the rise of contact herbicide glufosinate as an alternative to paraquat creates new demands to control drift as well.

Finally, one of the most promising and exciting new field for tank mix adjuvants is Agricultural Spray Drones in China, a leading country for the adoption and digitalization of spray drone applications.

Agricultural Drones in China and Solvay solutions

Agricultural drones are mainly used for precision farming, but they can perform various farming operations such as crop protection spraying. The Agricultural Drones Market is expected to reach USD 3.7 billion globally by 2024. Today, this practice is already very well adopted in countries with very small land plots as it represents an easy and cost effective solution for farmers. In Japan, already 60% of paddy rice use drones. In China, less than 2% of the 140 million Ha of China’s arable land is using Agricultural Drone. With a very fragmented farm structure, this practice is expected to grow very quickly and this represents a very large opportunity in the agricultural sector.

For small crops in China, Ultra Low Volume spray (about 10L/ha) is required, from 2 meters height, at a speed of about 50Km/h. In such conditions, a major challenge of adjuvants is to control drift and evaporation, and enhance deposition and coverage to improve biological efficacy.

Solvay has started the screening and development of tailor made tank mix adjuvants for drones in collaboration with the Chinese Academy and Institute. Several trials were conducted on paddy fields with already promising results with our AgRho® Aeromate Series specifically designed for the Chinese spray drone application market. While AgRho® Aeromate 320 was launched in 2018 in China to offer accurate targeting and helps boost efficacy by combining anti-drift, anti-evaporation and anti-rebound properties to act directly where it is needed (As shown in Figure 1 and Figure 2).
Figure 1. AgRho Aeromate 320 helps anti-evaporation at rather higher temperature

Figure 2. Strong enhanced deposition rate that translates into higher efficacy, Paddy rice drone spray field test in Jilin, China 2017

In addition, Solvay launched a new digital channel for the China market. AgRho Aeromate 320 is now available online, on Solvay Flagship Store on 1688.com, Alibaba’s B2B Ecommerce platform in China to involve farmers’ associations, formulators, large farmers, etc. to develop this market together. As part of this online sales initiative, Solvay has broadcasted a live show on 1688.com to demonstrate how to use tank mix adjuvant for drone spray. The Live Show on Alibaba provides a great opportunity to raise awareness of drone spray application to show the expertise and ability for today’s challenges in agriculture

Solvay continues to innovate and will launch a new product, AgRho Aeromate 380 in 2019 with multi optimized performance for drone application to improve biological efficacy.

To conclude, tank mix adjuvants will continue to grow as an ever sophisticated tool for the future of Farming, enabling farmers to safely spray multiple herbicide combos in the US, Brazil and Australia, allowing Europeans farmers to continue to reduce input doses while optimizing efficacy of active ingredients and minimizing off-target movement, and preparing the digital farming revolution in China with application-specific products for spray drones. Solvay is proud to have started this journey 25 years ago and is looking forward to continue to be at the forefront of innovation for tank mix adjuvants (As shown in Figure 3).
Figure 3. Solvay Tank Mix Adjuvant Journey


Solvay is an advanced materials and specialty chemicals company, committed to developing chemistry that addresses key societal challenges. Since more than 150 years, Solvay innovates and partners with customers worldwide in diverse markets including automotive and aerospace, consumer goods and health care, etc., and of course agriculture. As land resources available for agriculture become increasingly limited, Solvay offers innovative solutions in crop protection, plant nutrition and seed and grain care to meet the challenge of feeding the world's growing population

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