With water management in agriculture and horticulture shooting up the political agenda, improving water efficiency has become a key challenge for the industry. Trials have shown H2Flo®, our new surfactant for the specialty agriculture sector, can cut water usage by over 25% while maintaining yields.
“Applied to the soil via irrigation, H2Flo is set to improve water efficiency in crops such as potatoes, leafy salads, field vegetables and strawberries,” says Scott Garnett, ICL specialty agriculture manager for UK and Ireland. “While water issues tend to be greatest on sandy soils, this surfactant can also generate significant water savings on heavier land. Unlike one shot penetrants, H2Flo has the benefit of offering a residual effect over several weeks.”
What is a surfactant?
Wetting agents are surfactants - a class of chemicals causing a physical change at the surface of liquids.
Cohesion holds water together within a water droplet. Surfactants lower the surface tension of water allowing it to spread across a larger surface and to penetrate soil by freely spreading across the soil particles.Water is dipolar − has a positive and negative end − and will not bond with non-polar molecules, such as oil and organic matter. When a surfactant is added to water it is no longer repelled and the two can mix.
New for 2016 - H2Flo
H2Flo is a nonionic surfactant, the most suitable for plants and compatible with fertilizer chemistry. Nonionic surfactants work well in acidic environments, as they do not react with iron, magnesium and calcium ions and have low toxicity.
A long chain surfactant that breaks down over time, H2Flo offers residual activity. Incorporating a blend of surfactants it improves penetration as well as lateral movement of water within the root zone. Combined with a root activator, H2Flo also stimulates root production leading to a greater root mass helping to improve crop establishment.
H2Flo can be applied via drip, centre pivot and overhead irrigation. The first application is recommended prior, or close, to planting with subsequent applications at monthly intervals.
Fully biodegradable, H2Flo is non hazardous and has a neutral pH of 7. It has been in commercial use for over three years with no reports of crop damage or negative effect on yields or crop quality.In 2016 ICL is planning further work looking at H2Flo in non-irrigated field crops.
Trials demonstrate 25%+ saving in water
A number of trials have been carried out in Europe and North America, including
a replicated trial in field-grown tomatoes in Florida in 2014. Three irrigation programmes were tested 100%, 75% and 50% with H2Flo applied at transplanting at a rate of 1.2 litre/ha and again at weeks, 1,3, 5 and 7 at 0.6 litre/ha.
Summarising the results, Scott Garnett says; “H2Flo shows very good results allowing for a 25% reduction in irrigation with no loss of yield.
“Reducing irrigation by 50% with or without H2Flo resulted in a significant reduction in yield. However, the plots treated with H2Flo gave more than a 100% increase in yield compared to those without, so if water restrictions are in place treating with H2Flo can greatly increase achievable yield.
“H2Flo is the way to save water and money while maintaining yield. The benefits are not restricted to sandy soil. All crops treated so far have responded well, including potato, carrots, peppers and strawberries, as well as crops suited to warmer climates such as melon, olive, cotton and peach.”