Crop Protectants are Important to Agriculture

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Crop protectants are important for agriculture. They protect crops that are grown to feed people and animals. A crop protectant is what some call a pesticide. I like to use the term crop protectant because it better describes why these products are applied by farmers and homeowners.

Many crop protectants are mixed with water and applied through a spray system. The quality of the mix water has an impact on the effectiveness of the crop protectant. The pH (acidity), hardness, and turbidity of the mix water have an effect on the breakdown rate of the crop protectant. Using mix water outside of ideal conditions causes products to break down quicker. In some cases, the mix water will break down the crop protectant before it can reasonably be applied to the crop.

Ideal mix water pH is 5.5-6.5. Much of the water in NC has a pH that is higher than 6.5. This is especially true in Eastern NC. There are a few places in Western NC where very low pH can be found. When water pH is outside the ideal range, some products break down rapidly and their effectiveness as a crop protectant is reduced.

Water hardness is a measure of dissolved minerals. Hard water can lower absorption rates of crop protectants by plants. Hard water can also cause excessive mineral accumulation within hoses and nozzles. Common crop protectants affected by hard water are glyphosate, glufosinate, and 2, 4-D.

Turbidity is a measure of suspended solids in the water. Turbidity is a fancy term for dirty water. Mix water from streams, ponds, and failing wells are likely to have turbidity concerns. The small clay and silt particles bind to some crop protectants, making them unavailable to protect the crop to which they are being applied.

Fortunately, if your crop protectant mix water is outside the ideal range, there are water conditioners that can be added to correct issues. A water test is the best way to know if your mix water is good or if it would benefit from a conditioner.

The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services – Agronomic Division’s Solution Lab offers testing of source water for $5 per sample. Testing results include water hardness, bicarbonate level (reported as alkalinity within results), water pH, iron content, salt concentration, electrical conductivity, nutrient content, and more. To submit a sample, collect 20 ounces of water in a clean plastic bottle and complete the submission form. Refrigerate the sample until it is sent to the lab.

Mix water in Caldwell County from municipal sources is ideal for pH, hardness, and turbidity. Mix water from other sources should be checked so if there are issues, they can be addressed. For additional questions or for assistance, contact the Caldwell Extension Center at 828-757-1290.