Renewable Farming

Safer, more effective spraying with these drift-reducing methods

This spring’s herbicide spray ads focus on putting chemicals “where they’re supposed to be.” That has always sounded like a good idea to us, and we consider WakeUP Summer as one of your proven allies in that battle. 

May 16, 2018 — One of the simplest ways to reduce drift is to increase spray droplet size. With spray solutions structured with WakeUP Summer colloidal micelles, you can place larger droplets on leaves and watch them “sheet” over leaves into a smooth glossy sheen. 

WakeUP’s physics in water is dramatically different than the thousand or so ordinary surfactants you can use. Most of those involve petrochemicals or phosphates. WakeUP reduces the surface tension of spray water below the leaf’s surface tension by building negatively charged structures of water, each of which is a shell of  water molecules bonded gently with a tiny WakeUP colloid. The colloids exert a negative charge, so the positive ends of H20 molecules orient themselves toward the colloid. Thus, the negative ends of each water molecule face outward. Each micelle repels others, like the negative ends of those old kid toys — bar magnets with little plastic Scotty dogs mounted on them.

WakeUP Summer colloidal micelle

When you add an ounce of WakeUP Summer to a gallon of water, creating a 1:256 ratio of WakeUP to water, you’ll notice that the water turns slightly milky. That’s light reflecting off the tiny micelle structures.

This little quantum-physics description is essential to understand how spray solutions structured with WakeUP become more effective at leaf coverage as well as rapid leaf absorption plus quick translocation through the plant’s phloem system. 

So here’s the game plan for safe, effective foliars:

1. If your chemical label allows a surfactant, choose WakeUP. At 5 ounces per acre, the cost of $3.52 per acre may be slightly higher than cheap surfactants and stickers, but with WakeUP you get three jobs done: coverage, absorption and translocation.

2. Use spray tips with a larger droplet size; the upper end of your label instructions. We’re not prescribing a particular tip; that’s the province of weed specialists and TeeJet along with others. What we know is that larger drops drift less and evaporate less than a “mist.” For example, TeeJet is promoting a “Turbo TeeJet” induction spray tip with “ultra coarse droplets” which produce “less than 2% drift able fines.”

In earlier photo reports we’ve shown that a big drop of WakeUP spray solution (one part WakeUP Summer per two gallons water) released from a lab pipette, will crawl across a leaf and absorb quickly. Coarse spray droplets cover leaves and absorb in as little as a minute. In the “old days,” a spray fog or near-micron mist from a Chiron sprayer seemed to be the way to get leaf coverage. Dropping the solution’s surface tension from water’s normal 70 dynes down to about 30 dynes does the job — even for fuzzy leaves like soybeans, and slicker leaves like corn and wheat.

3. We favor 15 to 20 gallons of spray solution per acre on corn or beans early in the season. Maybe a tad more if the crops have canopied and you’re battling weed escapes. We know how growers shy from hauling water… but the tradeoff of carrying more water to the field is a fairly easy one to get thorough absorption and coverage. Especially if you’re battling resistant weeds.

4. Morning or evening spraying usually gives you more favorable temperatures and wind speeds. Some old-line spray guides may mention that the “stomata are open” in the cool of the day, but stomata are for gas exchange. Foliar sprays are absorbed primarily through the leaf cuticle. 

5. Count on WakeUP Summer’s ability to temporarily soften the leaf cuticle, the outermost “skin” that’s there precisely to reduce moisture loss from inside the leaf. With WakeUP Summer in your spray solution, your payload sponges quickly through the outer cuticle and into the palisade cells and plant metabolism. Even on a 95% humidity day, leaves look dry quickly. Rain-fast in minutes. Unless your herbicide or other product insists on a “sticker,” we learned to forego mingling the MSO or similar products in spray solutions. We want to see foliar nutrients absorbed into the leaf, not gummed onto the outside of the leaf cuticle.

6. You can effectively buffer spray solutions to the pH specified by your herbicide or other tank-mixed product without reducing WakeUP’s effectiveness as a surfactant, penetrant and carrier. WakeUP works with basic colloidal micelle physics and is not dependent on a solution’s pH. The pH of concentrated WakeUP formulations is in the 9.5 to 10 range. If your well water is a pH of around 7.5, adding 1 ounce of WakeUP Summer per two gallons of water will nudge it up to about 8.5. With the micelles created, you can add spray grade AMS, citric acid or other commercial buffering agent to adjust your final spray solution to the pH prescribed for the product you’re applying. Always… always add WakeUP Summer to spray water first. Then everything else. Read our label.

7. You already know the other spray guides such as wind speed and temperature inversions; we don’t need to cover those points here.

The photo below shows how we’ve sprayed a coarse droplet through our Hagie for many years, with thorough leaf coverage. One way to improve coverage in a have canopy would be to use extensions that add a spray from under the leaf while down-focused tips spray the tops. Several of our WakeUP clients report liking that setup, especially for delivering foliar nutrients.