Editor’s Note: Attend the second Formulation Science Symposium at the FCI Global Sourcing Summit, 8-9 in Delhi, India. Register now.
Formulation technology has become one of the most important differentiating factors in product selection for end users. In a competitive landscape of commoditized technical material, premix products and formulations optimized for efficacy, efficiency, plant health and resistance management are becoming crucial.
These newer formulations require new raw materials, new testing technology and new approaches to meet the agronomic and operations needs of farmers.
In an effort to provide the best programming for the FCI Trade Summit, the editors of Farm Chemicals International are proud to promote our first Formulation Science Symposium, which took place Aug. 27 at the FCI Trade Summit – Americas in Las Vegas.
The inaugural Formulation Science Symposium featured speakers who highlighted the industry’s role in product development, speed to market, water management, resistance management and how formulation technology fits into good agricultural practices and ultimately food productivity and security. The adjuvant market in the United States is estimated to be about $500 million to $1 billion, and it is expected to grow 3% to 4% during the next five years.
Product innovation stems from research and development, processes historically done by the basic research companies that have the infrastructure to innovate. More companies are developing formulation expertise of their own, and many companies offer services to help companies develop and formulate proprietary products.
Dow Crop Defense Solutions provides companies with formulation expertise through a suite of proprietary products that it licenses to third parties. The division works independently from Dow AgroSciences and develops formulations for other basic producers and formulators. It uses high-throughput testing to identify premix compatibility, optimum pH levels, solvents, tank mix compatibility, sustainable inert ingredients, surfactants, biocide integration, water use and other factors that affect efficacy and convenience for end users.
“Formulations are becoming more complex, and we need to change the way we approach these products to maintain efficacy and compatibility both in the can and in the tank,” Dow Crop Defense Solutions’ Roberta Godoy told attendees at the Formulation Science Symposium. “High-throughput systems can prepare 96 formulations in 45 minutes, so it can test a lot of different surfactants, solvents and other formulation options with precise uniformity.”
Precision is imperative as companies work to create new products to combat resistance, promote plant health, address pest shifts, reduce spray drift, comply with evolving regulatory thresholds and ultimately meet demands for safe and effective crop protection.
“Europe and Brazil have a hazard-based regulatory posturing, and that affects product registrations and MRL harmonization,” said Peter Matey, global marketing coordinator for Huntsman. He presented information on global market and agronomic pressures that drive product innovation. “There is a layer of complexity in many markets that we need to design products to adhere to.”
Now and Then
During the past 15 years, much of the innovation in the adjuvant market has been driven by glyphosate because of its broad use and also because it is very adjuvant-dependent. But adjuvants are adapting to the need for mixed modes of action, ecological sensitivities and environmental factors.
“It was easy to control pests when I began in this industry in 1975,” said Dr. Johnnie Roberts, director of adjuvant product development for Helena. “But we needed a revolution because we want active ecosytems. Crop protection chemistry evolved to a prescription approach. But they are very coverage-dependent and fragile; they are designed to do their job and disappear, and that is where we are today with formulation technology. That’s our challenge because we don’t get to farm indoors so we can’t control all the variables. The good news is that the science has caught up with the challenges that farmers face.”
One big evolution has been in-can coformulation-enhanced formulations, Roberts told Formulation Science Symposium attendees. These coformulations engineer better products and also eliminate the need to register stand-alone adjuvant products as a pesticide.
Additionally, methylated seed oils are becoming more important as a crop oil concentrate to improve spreading, sticking and activity. There is also a move to high-surfactant oil concentrates, where adjuvant products are combined with paraffin and seed oils for ease of tank mixing and better product uptake. The oil-based innovations also allow sprayers to use larger droplet sizes to reduce drift.
These innovations ultimately provide the technology that establish better yields, production and ultimately food security for a growing planet at a time when access to new chemistries has slowed.
“Since 1982 (mesotrione), no new mode of action has been developed,” Green Ways Consulting President Jerry Green said at the conference. “So basically every tool we have can be considered generic in its mode of action, and the products that we are developing for the next generation are contingent on formulation and adjuvant technology to address pressing needs for the farmer and grow more food for this growing population.”