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By Norman Wilson, Ph.D.

The most expensive pesticide application is the one that didn’t work. This statement would seem to be obvious but I see growers risk failure in order to “save” a few dollars on a pesticide application. However, there are ways to stretch your pesticide dollar without increasing the risk of failure. To begin, we might consider a few “facts” regarding pesticides:

  • The most expensive pesticide is not always the best pesticide
  • The pesticide should be labeled for and effective against the target pest (product selection is critical)
  • The high label rate is not always more effective compared to a lower rate
  • There is no such thing as a weather proof pesticide (rain, temperature, wind, and other environmental factors can and will affect pesticide performance)
  • Proper timing and application procedure is every bit as important as product selection
  • A contact or topical pesticide must have coverage to work
  • A systemic foliar pesticide must penetrate the leaf surface (cuticle) and be translocated within the plant to work
  • A residual soil pesticide should resist pH and chemical induced degradation
  • A good pesticide needs all the help we can give it

Careful selection and proper application are essential for good pesticide performance but you may be wondering if that expensive adjuvant that you added to the spray mix was really worth the cost. A spray adjuvant is broadly defined as any substance added to the spray mix, separate from the pesticide, intended to improve performance of the pesticide.

Adjuvants can be classified into three general categories; buffering agents, surfactants (wetting agents and sticker-spreaders) and penetrants. Any of these activities can be important for a specific pesticide and all are important for some pesticides. Most commercial adjuvants are highly specific in their activity and provide no other benefit to the crop or soil. The real question is not so much “do they work?” as “are they worth the cost?”

One of the first observations that a new ViTech consultant or grower will make is that pesticides work harder when a ViTech product is tank mixed with the pesticide. The ViTech product is usually intended for other activity (foliar nutrient balance or soil amendment) and the pesticide enhancement is a “happy surprise”. Long term ViTech customers expect to see this response and routinely tank mix ViTech product with their pesticides to enhance activity. Any ViTech soil or foliar product can produce this response and the most popular products for this purpose are ViCare (foliar applications) and ViBasic (soil applications). ViCare is especially well suited for foliar pesticide enhancement. ViCare, which is specifically formulated as a foliar carrier and plant disease management product, buffers spray solutions, provides natural oils that act as surfactants, and contains organic compounds which penetrate leaf cells and translocate throughout the leaf and plant.

When tank mixed with a pesticide, ViCare provides complete adjuvant activity along with plant nutrition and physiological stimulation. ViBasic tank mixed with a soil applied pesticide will buffer the solution and help prevent pH or chemical induced deactivation. Wouldn’t you rather invest in a ViTech product that can “do it all” rather than spend your dollars on adjuvant products that may or may not be cost effective. See your ViTech consultant for details.