Kyle McConnell is a skeptic. The Haxtun, Colo., producer has seen his share of what he calls “snake oil” additives, so he was a little cautious when he came across new adjuvant technology.
“I stumbled across Hydrovant, and it was the hardest thing to get my head around,” he recalls.
McConnell was challenged by how the new product works, as an activator-sticker that gently binds chemicals to plants.
Given that definition, McConnell was being told that the product could be used in all kinds of applications — sprayer, fertilizer, “anything we were using,” he says. “It’s almost like putting the magic of encapsulation to work on your farm.”
Remaining skeptical, his only answer was to test the product. McConnell applied it with atrazine in strips, where half a field had the adjuvant and the other did not. After doing that three years in a row, he found thick areas of weeds where the adjuvant wasn’t used. But where it was used, he got an extra 30 days of control.
Still not convinced, he did an experiment to see how the product performed with fertilizer. “I built three glass-plate demonstrations using play sand,” he says. One glass box had only water applied, the second had only fertilizer, and the third had fertilizer combined with Hydrovant. The boxes were placed in a window where ultraviolet light could do its worst.
After 114 days? “We can still see the fertilizer striations in the sand where we used it with Hydrovant. The water and plain fertilizer are gone,” he says. So he’s trying the product with fertilizer this season, too.
Water and polymer
“The product is about 95% water,” says Glenn Pacchiana, CEO and president of Corbet Scientific, the creators of Hydrovant. “The rest is a proprietary polymer.”
Pacchiana says the water base makes a difference because the adjuvant has not had issues mixing with a range of crop protection products and fertilizer. The polymer binds pesticides to plants and prevents them from washing away. The company has done a range of tests at major universities, including Cornell in New York.
“It creates a 3D matrix that helps it hold product in place,” Pacchiana says. “We’ve tested this in wind tunnels to determine how it works.”
That “matrix” or “mesh” is what binds the product to the leaf and keeps it in place. Pacchiana explains it’s a kind of scaffolding that holds products on the plant even as the plant grows.
The product has been tested in a range of applications from pastureland to row crops. In tests of the insecticide Brigade combined with Hydrovant, the results show a major increase in control. The test was for cotton aphid control on cucumber in California.
The initial tests have been on high-value crops like almonds, blueberries and cucumbers, but it’s also showing higher control in row crops.
For Colorado farmer McConnell, the best test was his use of a popular three-way herbicide package to tackle Palmer amaranth and kochia on his operation. “I did the majority with Hydrovant on two applications,” he says. “On a 5-acre patch without Hydrovant, I applied the mix three times.”
He found that without the adjuvant, the 5 acres were overrun with weeds. As for the rest of the field where the adjuvant was used? “It smoked them,” he says.
Distribution of the product is still being expanded in 2022. For more information, visit hydrovant.com.