La science au service des agents mouillants

26 août 2019
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ICL produit des agents mouillants pour les responsables d'entretien de gazon depuis deux décennies pour résoudre le problème des parcelles sèches et pour distribuer efficacement l’eau dans le sol et dans la zone racinaire. Ces dernières années, les progrès dans le développement des agents mouillants les ont rendus plus efficaces et plus sûrs.
Comme l’eau est une ressource de plus en plus précieuse dans le monde entier, les agents mouillants jouent maintenant un rôle important dans la conservation de l’eau et la promotion de la santé et de la qualité du gazon dans le cadre d’un programme intégré de gestion du gazon. Nous parlons à Lana Farren, Responsable technique chez ICL Amega Sciences pour un aperçu des coulisses des agents mouillants et de conservation de l’eau d’ICL.
« Amega Sciences est experte dans la formulation de produits spécialisés et utilise des technologies de surfactant. Parce que les surfactants sont tensioactifs, cela signifie qu’ils affectent les surfaces des liquides, des solides et des gaz. Nous utilisons des surfactants pour manipuler les surfaces et cela peut aider à obtenir une meilleure adhérence du produit sur la feuille ou augmenter l’infiltration d’eau dans le sol ou même encore nettoyer les surfaces des résidus, par exemple les réservoirs des pulvérisateurs agricoles après l’application de produits phytopharmaceutiques, afin d’en retirer les résidus, pour que les applications ultérieures ne soient pas affectées par ces résidus ou nettoyer les buses et les pipelines. Mais nous nous spécialisons dans les agents mouillants, les technologies adjuvantes de conservation de l’eau. »
Lana travaille chez Amega depuis 12 ans. En tant que responsable technique, elle gère les projets de recherche ICL R&D et développe les produits issus du marketing.
Why are wetting agents important for turf managers?
“Water management is a crucial part of growing any plant and that includes turf grass, but there are two main problems with water. First, you've got costs and the availability of suitable irrigation water and using products in the H2Pro range will reduce the amount of irrigation water required so it can help to reduce the cost of the water used. The second problem is in the soil. Water-repellency can cause things like dry spots, compaction and disease, which all cause problems producing a consistent turf surface which is important to the games on the turf. Using the H2Pro range of wetting agents as part of the maintenance and fertilizer program will help against all of those, and provide a healthy sward by distributing water evenly and then allowing drainage where it's needed.”
ICL focuses on quality products that work well. Each product in the H2Pro wetting agent range is designed specifically for a particular job and it can take years to research and develop them. ICL runs several trials on all new potential products to ensure proof of performance before the product gets to market. Amega and ICL turf technical managers work together closely to ensure that the products are products that perform.
Is it complicated to bring a range of wetting agents to the market?
“A lot of time and effort that goes into research. It is not an easy process, and an enormous amount of work goes into the development just for the one product. There are many different surfactant types, there are different chemistries, and they all have different effects on the surfaces they're applied to. Because we blend the different chemistries together, they also have to be stabilized in the formulation to make sure that it will be good for 2 years after it's been produced.”
What makes H2Pro different to other wetting agents on the market?
“To start you need a good knowledge of the surfactants and of tailoring the formulations to do what you want them to deliver in terms of performance. Once the surfactants are selected and stabilized, the formulas then undergo rigorous stability testing at different temperatures to ensure that they are stable around the world in different climates. We do tests on surface tension, spreadability, penetration, wetting, amongst other tests and they're all conducted in-house at Amega Sciences chemistry laboratories. Then the prototypes are checked for phytotoxicity and performance effects on the target crop in Amega Sciences biology laboratories. After the first screening tests in the biology labs, the best performers are chosen for field trials at different sites around the world. That ensures performance on different grass types, or different crops and under different environmental conditions. We have various different sites around the world either at universities or contract research sites, including the UK, the USA, Australia.”
ICL and Amega don’t just stop at one set of results. Each product is tested at several trial sites before it hits the market. This process normally takes around 2-3 years.
“We have a strong supporting dossier of trial results. That way we can ensure that our products are stable in the bottle, will do what we've developed them to do and they have a proven benefit to the targeting crop. At the very end of the development we test the product’s application rate as tank mixes with our entire turf range. That enables the turf manager to make an informed choice on whether they can mix two of ICL's products together to save time and labor out on the greens. This tank mix guide is then published in the ICL Turf & Landscape brochures.”
What should every turf manager looking to improve his use of wetting agents know?
“It's a common misconception that all wetting agent and surfactant technologies are the same. There are a lot of wetting agents on the market, but they are not all the same. Wetting agent products are designed to do different things, so using high quality products with support in independent trial information is essential. And we'd always recommend a preventative approach using a program with wetting agents within a fertilizer and maintenance schedule, so that you ensure even soil moisture and prevent the issues before they happen.”
Lana Farren's team: Lewis Peattie (chemist), Chris Taylor (chemist) and Oliver Peerless (laboratory manager).