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Adjuvants’ role in combatting herbicide resistance  

Andrew Somervaille, Jubilee Consulting has been evaluating the performance of herbicides for more than three decades and says the role of adjuvants is often either over-rated or under-estimated. This may seem a contradiction, but the fact is that sometimes adding an adjuvant is beneficial and sometimes it is detrimental; and there is an art to knowing how to best deploy these additives.

When weeds are susceptible to the applied herbicides, the effectiveness of adjuvants generally goes un-noticed. However, correctly applied adjuvants can reduce the impact of low level herbicide resistance by helping to maximise the amount of herbicide taken up by the plant.<!

Andrew Somervaille, research agronomist with Jubilee Consulting suggests growers and advisors should not overlook or over-rate the use of adjuvants.

“In the best case scenario, the correct use of an adjuvant can optimise performance of a single herbicide, or a herbicide mix,” he says. “This results in the most efficient control of the target weeds, minimises seed set and reduces weed numbers into the future. All research points to low weed numbers as the only sustainable way to manage herbicide resistance.”

“In the worst case scenario, the incorrect use of an adjuvant can reduce herbicide performance, may compromise the physical compatibility of mixtures and can alter the function of tank mix components,” says Andrew. “This may result in a sub-lethal dose of herbicide being applied, which is known to amplify herbicide resistance if there are low levels of resistance present in the weed population.”

“Once populations are highly resistant then the impact of adjuvants is reduced,” says Andrew. “This highlights the importance of being very deliberate and calculated when making recommendations or decisions about adjuvants.”

In one experiment Andrew conducted with two formulations of glyphosate, he measured the negative effect of the adjuvant when in the presence of 2,4-D to control awnless barnyard grass. “We know there is antagonism between 2,4-D and glyphosate in a tank mix in some situations that results in a reduction in the level of control expected from glyphosate alone,” he says. “What we observed in this experiment was that one glyphosate+surfactant formulation mixed with 2,4-D achieved just over 80% control while a second glyphosate+surfactant formulation mixed with 2,4-D achieved 94% control.”

Andrew says that although some herbicide products are manufactured with an adjuvant included as part of the formulation, there may still be a benefit gained from adding another type of adjuvant prior to application, depending on the other products in the mix, the water quality or the target weed.

In another experiment, Andrew investigated the effect of different adjuvants (LI 700 and Liase) on the efficacy of a RoundUp Power Max (glyphosate) and Amicide (2,4-D) mix. The results clearly showed that while Liase improved the performance of the mix, LI 700 reduced performance to less than 80% control of barnyard grass.

Grower experience, research trials and computer modelling all point toward high levels of herbicide performance, coupled with the removal of survivor plants, to reliably and sustainably extend the useful lifespan of herbicides by removing potential carriers of resistance traits.

“Even small incremental losses in control at the ‘top end’ can have a large effect on the total seed-bank load,” says Andrew. “While 95% control might still be considered a good result from a herbicide application that could have potentially achieved 98% control, this three per cent loss in efficiency could be the start of a substantial increase in weed numbers and allow herbicide resistance to gain a foothold.”

Keeping weed numbers low allows the targeted use of more expensive products (e.g. through an optical sprayer), makes manual control methods economical, and even allows the use of less efficient products to maintain or slightly reduce numbers while adding diversity to the program (provided there is no cross-resistance).

What adjuvants do

An adjuvant may modify the physical, chemical and biological activity of the herbicide on the target. For example, an adjuvant may be added to improve the physical properties of the spray such as its spray quality, or to allow products to dissolve or mix in water. Adjuvants may also alter the chemical properties of the formulation to counter poor water quality or activate certain components in the herbicide, and from a biological perspective an adjuvant may be used to influence uptake through the plant cuticle and even movement across cell membranes.

Very small amounts of surfactants are required to achieve adequate ‘wetting’ of the plant surfaces and adding more surfactant will not necessarily increase the performance of foliar applied herbicides. However, some adjuvants (including surfactants) are added specifically to activate the active ingredients and so are an essential component of the formulation or mixture.

Adjuvants can play an incremental role in improved herbicide performance and assist with keeping weed numbers low and reducing the risk of sub-lethal resistance traits. However, their use does not over-ride the need for correct chemical use and application under the right conditions.

The same adjuvant may even perform different functions when included in different mixes or added to different formulations. There are also specific responses in certain weeds to certain surfactants, some giving superior results and other inferior. It is not possible to give rule-of-thumb recommendations – each scenario needs to be examined carefully, taking into account the target weed species, the condition of the weeds, the water quality and the specific herbicide formulations.

They are not always beneficial and can result in sub-lethal doses being applied if they are not used correctly. Combinations of surfactants can modify the functions of the individual components and it cannot be assumed that the effects are additive to herbicide performance.

Also, be aware that the characteristics of the leaf cuticle are not the primary limiting factor associated with the uptake of foliar applied herbicides. Plant stress is usually the main limiting factor and this may only be partly overcome through the use of an adjuvant.

Clearly, it is not a simple matter of making recommendations or decisions to include an adjuvant. Growers and their advisors need to have an appreciation of the chemistry behind the adjuvant’s use and the way that it may impact on the uptake of the herbicide into the target weed.

Useful resources

Adjuvants – Oils, surfactants and other additives for farm chemicals

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What to expect at WeedSmart Week 2021

Big 6 at WeedSmart Week 2021 – Double knock to protect glyphosate
The WeedSmart Forum is set for Tuesday 17 August, 2021 at the Civic Centre in Esperance WA. The program features growers, agronomists and researchers discussing ways to use the BIG 6 to beat crop weeds. You can register for the 3-day WeedSmart Week event here.
Greg Warren from Farm and General in Esperance will be sharing his thoughts on the control of weeds like summer-germinating ryegrass, marshmallow, fleabane and portulaca.
He says the growers around Esperance are tackling glyphosate resistance in annual ryegrass, along with brome and barley grass and other emerging weeds using a range of integrated control tactics. The double knock plays a key role in preserving glyphosate (and soil moisture) and providing a clean seed bed for planting crops.

 
Big 6 at WeedSmart Week 2021 – Increase crop competition
WeedSmart Week 2021 is set for Tuesday 17 to Thursday 19 August, 2021 in and around Esperance WA. The last two days feature local growers hosting visits to their farms and discussing how they use the BIG 6 to beat crop weeds. You can register for the 3-day WeedSmart Week event here.
One of the farms hosting a visit during WeedSmart Week is Warrakirri’s 12,800 cropping operation at Condingup. Farm manager Con Murphy has implemented a variety of tactics to combat their main weeds – annual ryegrass and wild radish. Since 2015 the farm has undergone an intensive soil amelioration program to improve the drainage and ameliorate the sandy soils across the farm.
Con says the benefits have been seen in better germination and establishment that sets their cereal, pulse and canola crops up to compete strongly with weeds. There is also a benefit at the end of the season where rain in August or September enters the soil profile without causing waterlogging, and providing a better finish for their crops.
Since 2016-17 about 80% of the farm has been ripped and a portion has been ripped 2 or 3 times because the sandy soils tend to slump after substantial rainfall events, recreating the hardpan.
Con will be showing the WeedSmart tour group how their ripping, drainage, liming and spading program has helped grow more crop and less weeds!
Listen to the podcast with Warrakirri’s Con Murphy talking about the impact of improved drainage on crop competition

Big 6 at WeedSmart Week 2021 – Implement harvest weed seed control
The WeedSmart Week machinery display is set for Wednesday 18 August, 2021 at Dave Campbell’s shed near Esperance WA. The 3-day WeedSmart Week program features growers, agronomists and researchers discussing ways to use the BIG 6 to beat crop weeds. You can register for the 3-day WeedSmart Week event here.
We’ve saved the harvest weed seed control discussion for the machinery session on Wednesday 18 August. Ben White from Kondinin Group will host the machinery session with spray and harvesting gear on display including impact mills from Seed Terminator, Redekop and iHSD (both hydraulic and belt-driven), Emar chaff deck, and spray technologies including Goldacres’ G6 Crop Cruiser series 2, and weed detection technologies using drones and weed identifying cameras (green on green).
Ben White, Kondinin Group (Photo: Melissa Powell, courtesy of GRDC)
Growers doing the WeedSmart Big 6
WeedSmart Week 2021 is set for Tuesday 17 to Thursday 19 August, 2021 in and around Esperance WA. The last two days feature local growers hosting visits to their farms and discussing how they use the BIG 6 to beat crop weeds. You can register for the 3-day WeedSmart Week event here.
One of the growers who will open up their farm for a visit is Adrian Perks who farms at Condingup, 70 km north-east of Esperance. Adrian runs a continuous cropping program on his 4300 ha property, growing canola, wheat, barley, faba beans and lupins. This diverse rotation allows him to mix and rotate both chemical and non-chemical weed control tactics. Over half of Adrian’s farm is sandplain, on which he has implemented a soil amelioration program to address non-wetting to increase the competitiveness of his crops. He currently uses chaff decks for harvest weed seed control and is introducing an impact mill this season. Adrian monitors the tramtracks for weed growth and if he feels the weed pressure is too high, he uses a shielded sprayer to reduce seed set. The bus tour will include four farm visits and a machinery display.
Listen to Adrian on the Regional Update podcast.
Adrian Perkins, Condingup WA
 

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WeedSmart agronomist set to tackle high rainfall zone weeds

Every locality has its own spectrum of weeds, and growers face different opportunities and challenges regarding the control tactics they can employ.
The WeedSmart Big 6 approach is a practical way to ensure that an integrated weed management program is put in place that disrupts weed seed production and the evolution of herbicide resistance.
Commencing in January 2021, Jana Dixon has joined the WeedSmart team of extension agronomists, with a focus on applying the Big 6 to manage weeds in the high rainfall cropping systems of southern Australia – from Esperance in WA to south-eastern SA, Tasmania and south-western Victoria.
Jana will add to the dedicated and experienced extension agronomists on the WeedSmart team with Peter Newman in the Western region, Chris Davey in the South, Greg and Kirrily Condon in the East and Paul McIntosh in the North.
Jana Dixon has joined the WeedSmart team of extension agronomists, with a focus on applying the Big 6 to manage weeds in the high rainfall cropping systems of southern Australia – from Esperance in WA to south-eastern SA, Tasmania and south-western Victoria.
Jana hails from the Mid North of SA, and began working at Pinion Advisory (previously Rural Directions) while she was studying agriculture at the University of Adelaide. She has been employed full-time at Pinion Advisory since January 2019 as an agribusiness consultant, based in Clare, and spends most of her time delivering agronomy and farm business advice to clients from a wide range of cropping regions in South Australia.
Pinion Advisory is a foundation WeedSmart sponsor and Jana has been involved in two WeedSmart Week events already – the first as a participant and grower group organiser at the Horsham event in 2019 and then as the local organiser for WeedSmart Week 2020 in Clare.
In welcoming her to the WeedSmart team, program manager Lisa Mayer says Jana brings energy, commitment and insight to deliver communications focussed on the southern region’s high rainfall regions.
“Growers in the southern high rainfall zones are facing some serious issues with herbicide resistance influencing their farming decisions,” says Ms Mayer. “Jana will be engaging with agronomists, growers and researchers in each of the distinct high rainfall zones to understand the complexities and look for practical ways to apply the WeedSmart Big 6 in various cropping scenarios.”
“We plan to deliver WeedSmart Week in Esperance, part of Western Australia’s high rainfall cropping zone, in August 2021 and Jana will play a key role in the planning and delivering of our annual 3-day flagship event.”
Jana says her experience with the WeedSmart program has been very positive and she has been particularly impressed with the support the program has from all sectors of the grains industry.
Newly appointed WeedSmart extension agronomist, Jana Dixon (green cap) leading discussions with farm visit host, Ben Marshman, Owen SA, and growers and agronomists attending WeedSmart Week 2020 in Clare.
“I have spoken to many growers and agronomists who have found real value in the information that the WeedSmart program delivers,” she says. “For many it is as much about considering another operator’s philosophy on dealing with weeds, and taking a fresh look at their own systems, rather than just learning about a new tactic or the traits of a new herbicide in isolation from the big picture.”
She says the high calibre of industry people who contribute their time and expertise to the program is testament to the value WeedSmart has to agribusiness, growers, agronomists and researchers alike.
In taking on the responsibility for delivering information tailored for the high rainfall zones Jana says she is pleased to have an extensive network of contacts through Pinion Advisory, with offices in a number of high rainfall areas to provide easy access to local agronomists and growers. She is also aware that there are major differences in weed spectrums and farming systems in each high rainfall zone and plans to take full advantage of the opportunity this role presents to expand her understanding of different approaches to weed management.
“The long and favourable growing season and the associated prolonged periods of weed germination, is a key factor that I see potentially impacting on a grower’s weed management strategies in these regions,” she says. “On the other hand, access to highly diverse rotations and a focus on crop competition are two strategies that can play an important role in achieving excellent weed management in these regions.”
“I am keen to engage with anyone working and farming in the high rainfall zones to build my knowledge and understanding,” she says. “And to create opportunities to develop and extend the WeedSmart Big 6 strategies, both herbicide and non-herbicide, that work in each area and in different situations.”
WeedSmart is the industry voice delivering science-backed weed control solutions with support from the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), major herbicide, machinery and seed companies, and university and government research partners, all of whom have a stake in sustainable farming systems.
You an follow Jana on Twitter and keep up to date with the HRZ here.

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Never cut the herbicide application rate

Scientific studies have demonstrated that resistance can rapidly evolve in weeds subjected to low doses of herbicide. Some weeds can develop resistance within a few generations.
Full rates when mixing herbicides too!
When mixing herbicides it is important that each product is still applied at the full label rate to ensure high mortality.
Applying different chemicals in one mix can provide an additive advantage. It is important to understand the mode of action of each herbicide on the plant when preparing a herbicide mix. This is just as important for pre-emergent grass weed mixes as it is for post-emergent mixes aimed at broadleaf weed control. ALWAYS READ THE LABEL.
Surrounding weed seeds with a combination of pre-emergent herbicides with different modes of action can give a high level of control and help extend the useful life of all the chemicals used. The high level of control must be supported with additional control measures for all survivors. All products with different modes of action must be applied at full label rates for this to be an effective strategy.

 
Mixing two chemicals with the same mode of action can achieve some additional efficacy, however, the mix should deliver the combined full rate to ensure a lethal dose. The amount of stubble present and crop safety are all important considerations when mixing chemicals. For example, when using a tank mix of Avadex® and trifluralin to control ryegrass in wheat, the rates used will vary depending on the sowing system and level of stubble retention. Be sure to get good advice.
Many herbicides on the market are a combination of two or more modes of action within the one product. These products must be applied at the full label rate to be effective. Having dual action does not negate the need to change herbicide products and rotate modes of action. Repeated use of any single strategy will reduce the effectiveness of that strategy over time.
 

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