“Corteva Agriscience has a global R&D presence for both formulation and application technology – in North America, Latin America, Asia-Pacific, and Europe – to ensure that we can easily collect first-hand knowledge of local application practices and test our products under relevant conditions, often in partnership with growers and applicators,” said Melissa Merlau Johnson, Formulation Science & Technology Leader, Corteva Agriscience, in a recent interview with AgroPages. She also shared her views on future development trends of novel formulation and application technologies, challenges that affect formulation innovation and development, strategies of formulation development, digitalization technologies to enhance efficacy for formulation development/application/delivery, as well as innovation formulation and application technologies.
Q1. What novel formulation and application technologies are needed to meet the needs for growers over the next 5 - 10 years in different global regions? What are the regulatory challenges to affect future formulations?
It is an exciting time for agriculture with new advances in active ingredients, biotechnology, application technology and data science all impacting new product development. Despite rapid change in many areas, the macro-level trends continue to be consistent. Growers require convenient products and solutions that maximize yield potential in a cost-effective manner, while enabling them to be good stewards of the land, environment, and human health. Growers will continue to need easy-to-use solutions to address resistance challenges through multiple modes of action. I expect there to be significant growth in naturally-derived and biological control products coming to the market to meet the increasing public and regulatory pull for these types of products, especially in some highly developed regions. Additionally, product sustainability in terms of low use rates, as well as use of low environmental-impact and inherently safe co-formulants, will be prevalent. Application technologies that enable crop protection products to be applied only where needed will also be required to continue to improve the profitability and environmental footprint of agriculture.
Q2. Could you share some specific cases of how your company develops agrochemical formulations suited to different global regions?
The development of any new agricultural product at Corteva Agriscience starts with the customer in mind and a clear understanding of local application practices in the targeted markets and regions. Corteva Agriscience has a global R&D presence for both formulation and application technology – in North America, Latin America, Asia-Pacific, and Europe – to ensure that we can easily collect first-hand knowledge of local application practices and test our products under relevant conditions, often in partnership with growers and applicators.
For example, a product that will be applied by backpack sprayer needs to have excellent “bloom” upon addition to water because mixing in the application is uncertain. Products designed for the northern United States and Canada need to disperse quickly in cold water, and products designed for drone application in Asia should have exceptional compatibility at high concentration to maximize payload. Our scientists take these and many other region-specific considerations, such as typical equipment, water quality, application rates, and storage conditions into account when developing design and testing protocols for both the lab and field to ensure a positive applicator and grower experience.
Q3. What are the challenges in R&D for new formulations and possible solutions? What technologies does your company adopt to speed up the formulation technology innovation?
Corteva Agriscience is working to develop new products that address the opportunities and unprecedented challenges of the rapidly-changing agricultural marketplace. For example, we are developing multi-active ingredient products with multiple modes of action to help farmers manage weed, insect, and disease resistance. Stabilizing multiple active ingredients in a formulation can be a challenge, but predictive models and data science are becoming valuable tools to help screen initial formulation parameters and focus research quickly on leading prototypes. New predictive test methods and technologies enable formulation scientists to effectively evaluate physical stability of formulations, like crystallization or phase separation potential, before these effects can be observed by the human eye. We also use predictive methods to proactively understand the human and environmental safety of our products during development, so we can ensure the safest and most sustainable products make it to market.
New analytical tools allow scientists to measure and visualize with more definition whether the active ingredient is reaching its target site and subsequently modify formulation and application parameters to maximize efficacy without relying solely on biological response data. These tools are particularly useful as active ingredients become more complex and efficiency is critical to ensure cost-effective solutions for the grower.
Q4. Could you share some cases of digitalization technologies that enhance efficacy for formulation development/application/delivery?
The digitization of agriculture offers a powerful new opportunity to enhance the efficacy and sustainability of crop care. The ability to monitor crop health with directed scouting tools, like those offered through Granular Insights, allow applicators to refine when and where they apply crop protection or nutrient products, optimizing for yield while minimizing product usage. We also continue to transition away from whole-field applications and move towards managing by sub-field zone, and in some cases even to each individual plant, thanks to the precision ag technology available from Granular Agronomy.
Meanwhile, advances in sensors, imaging and data science help to more quickly identify problems in the field, and advances in equipment and robotics are making the tools available to apply products in a targeted manner. One example is our use of satellite imagery to identify areas of invasive brush species and improve treatment timing. Another example is testing and optimization of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) application for weed and disease treatment in rice.
Q5. What’s the core competence to drive formulation technology innovation in your company? What innovation formulation technologies have been launched by your company? What are the agriculture concerns solved by them?
Developing formulation and application technologies that are efficacious, sustainable and easy-to-use requires collaboration among our highly skilled and diverse chemists, engineers, analysts, and field scientists. However, at Corteva Agriscience, the most important element is a deep understanding of what growers and consumers need and value -- at a local level -- that can be translated into exciting new products. Examples of our award-winning formulation and application technologies are below:
Enlist Duo® and Enlist One® herbicides provide superior control of resistant and hard-to-control broadleaf weeds in Enlist E3 soy, Enlist corn and Enlist cotton fields – including Palmer amaranth, waterhemp and giant ragweed. Both products use new 2,4-D choline and Colex-D® technology to help address challenges beyond controlling tough weeds, including minimizing potential for physical drift and delivering near-zero volatility to ensure that the product lands and stays on-target. Colex-D technology also provides applicators the benefit of better handling.
As farmers continue to fight herbicide-resistant weeds, Resicore® corn herbicide brings together three modes of action and a wide rate range to fit a variety of agronomic programs, including pre-emergence and post-emergence. Resicore® corn herbicide gives farmers power over weeds deep into the growing season. With strong residual control and versatile application timing, Resicore controls more than 75 high-anxiety broadleaf weeds and grasses, including waterhemp, marestail and Palmer amaranth. Resicore® was awarded the Agrow Award for Best Formulation Innovation 2016.
Loyant™ herbicide, with Rinskor™ active, provides excellent control of ALS-resistant grasses and sedges in rice with an alternative mode of action. The product received a US EPA Reduced Risk designation for its favorable environmental profile and was recognized by the US Green Chemistry Challenge Award. Also, Rinskor™ has been recognized by R&D 100 and by Agrow as the Best New Crop Protection Product. Loyant™ herbicide utilizes novel NeoEC formulation technology, to deliver a similar sustainability profile to water-based formulations, while also achieving many of the benefits traditionally associated with solvent-based formulations, including high efficiency, good stability and excellent handling properties
Pexalon™ insecticide, powered by Pyraxalt™ active is a crucial insect management tool specifically for rice farmers in Asia. Pexalon™ can control damaging plant and leaf-hoppers with one application, followed by a different mode of action chemistry, reducing the number of spray applications compared with traditional treatments due to the long-lasting nature of control and excellent rain-fastness.