What Are Agrochemicals?
Agriculture chemicals, or agrochemicals for short, most commonly refers to pesticides and fertilizers, which are used in agriculture to control insects and weeds, prevent diseases as well as promote plant growth. Some examples of agrochemicals include pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides.
Agrochemicals are normally water-insoluble and typically require the use of a surfactant or solvent to facilitate handling and spraying of the products as well as improve application performance and bio-efficacy. With the ever-growing population and decreasing farm land availability, Oxiteno offers surfactants and specialty agrochemical additives including a custom line – SURFOM® – of adjuvants and formulation additives to help overcome the many challenges in the agriculture industry and increase crop yield while protecting farmers’ health and deceasing environmental impacts.
What Are Agrochemicals Uses?
Surfactants are commonly added to agrochemical formulations to aid as emulsifiers for emulsifiable concentrates (EC) and microemulsions (ME) as well as wetting and dispersing agents for suspension concentrates (SC), wettable powders (WP), and wettable granuals (WG).
What are surfactants commonly classified as? Surfactants fall into nonionic, cationic, anionic, and amphoteric classifications; however, nonionic surfactant are the most commonly used surfactants in the agrochemical market due to their compatibility with the majority of pesticides. These nonionic surfactants typically include ethoxylated fatty alcohols, ethoxylated fatty acids, ethoxylated alkyl phenols, etc.
Typically, agrochemical formulations are diluted in water prior to application; however, due to the waxy surfaces of many plants, insects, and fungi such water based sprays are not highly effective without the addition of an adjuvant. In the agriculture industry, adjuvants are defined as substances that improve the efficacy of the agrochemicals by enhancing the performance of the pesticide as well as the physical properties of the agrochemical formulation itself. Adjuvants can be added to the pesticide formulation or purchased separately as tank mix adjuvants, which are useful tools for tailoring the physical and chemical properties of the spray solution and improving the efficacy of the pesticides, thereby contributing to an increase in field productivity.
While all surfactants are adjuvants, not all adjuvants are surfactants. Other adjuvants include, but are not limited to buffers, oils, antifoaming materials, fertilizers, and compatibilizing agents. Such adjuvants, when used correctly, improve spray application and effectiveness of pesticides by increasing retention, adhesion, wetting, and uptake as well as reduce evaporation, foam, spray drift, and volatilization.
However, surfactants are the most common and probably the most important class of adjuvants due to their ability to change the surface tension of spray droplets and increase the coverage of agrochemicals onto the target surface. Without good wetting and spreading properties, spray droplets may bounce off the target surface thus compromising the action of the agrochemical.
One of the many challenges in agriculture is the growing number of weeds becoming resistant to herbicides, especially glyphosate. To overcome these challenges, herbicide formulations are becoming increasingly complex, with more than one active ingredient and mode of action being mixed to provide proper field efficacy and secure crop yields. Typically, herbicides are not compatible with one another and must require the use of surfactants, especially dispersants, but also solvents and compatibility agents to achieve a stable formulation.
About Oxiteno’s Agrochemical Offerings
Oxiteno, a leading adjuvant solution provider for agrochemicals, offers a wide portfolio of surfactants and specialty chemicals, including all sorts of alkoxylate derivatives that are combined to secure stability and enhanced performance of various agrochemical formulations in the field. Oxiteno’s portfolio also consists of specialty solvents used to solubilize agrochemicals as well as additives designed for use in liquid and solid fertilizers.
The SURFOM® line is specifically designed to not only increase stability of active ingredients in agriculture formulations, but also increase bio-efficacy of the agrochemical by promoting adhesion, retention, spreading, and uptake of pesticides. The SURFOM® line contains wetting/spreading agents, which are used to wet the surface of and improve the coverage of the pesticide onto the target area by reducing the surface tension between the spray droplets and the surface of the target species. The SURFOM® line also consists of compatibility agents to aid in the compatibility of agrochemicals and fertilizers as the agglomeration of the agrochemical and inhomogeneity of the tank mixture can be detrimental, resulting in a decrease in productivity.
Oxiteno’s SURFOM® line also offers adjuvants composed of surfactants or surfactant/vegetable or mineral oil blends, which can be used to promote the penetration of specific pesticides into the target. The bio-efficacy of systemic herbicides and fungicides are usually increased with the addition of surfactants, which aid in penetration of the agrochemical into the target species. Furthermore, full adjuvant formulation solutions for common pesticide such as ammonium glufosinate and glyphosate are also available. Moreover, a miscellaneous range of adjuvants including nonionic and anionic surfactants of high and low molecular weight, as well as EO/PO copolymers, mineral oils and vegetable oil of methyl esters can be provided.
For more information or technical support, please feel free to contact Oxiteno online today.
 Mariano J.L. Castro, Carlos Ojeda, and Alicia Fernandez Cirelli. 2013. “Surfactants in Agriculture.” In Green Materials for Energy, Products and Depollution, 287-334. Springer Netherlands.