Tuesday, January 17th, 2012
By Nancy Allen
Water's condition impacts performance of crop aids
  FORT LORAMIE - The condition of water used to mix with products that control weeds, insects and diseases can affect their performance.
Water that is either too hard or acidic (pH levels too high) can adversely influence products and waste money, Fred Whitford of Purdue University said at the West Ohio Agronomy Day held in Fort Loramie last week.
Whitford called water condition a little factor that can make a big difference.
"All the machinery, equipment and technology doesn't make a bit of difference if it's not calibrated right," Whitford said. "Water's the same way."
Water is considered the foundation in the application process. Whether it's from a well, lake, stream or pond, it may be the deciding factor between ineffective and optimum performance, he said.
Most well water is not good for mixing with pesticide because it's too hard, Whitford said. Water hardness is determined by the amount of calcium, magnesium and iron it contains. Water with a hardness above 200 needs treated.
Most herbicides, insecticides and fungicides work best in water with a pH range between 4 and 6.5, except for sulfonylurea herbicides, which work best with a pH around 8, he said. The higher the pH level in water, the quicker pesticides break down and become ineffective. Rain water works the best for most crop aids, he added.
Whitford recommended farmers test their water once a year. Two options are hiring a commercial vendor or purchasing a do-it-yourself testing kit. Inexpensive pH strips can be purchased in the aquarium department at a pet store, he added.
Farmers and businesses such as nurseries, greenhouses and lawn care and pest control companies often use the same water source throughout the season, says a guide Whitford handed out during his presentation.
These owners should plan ahead by having the water tested by professionals, including those whose primary business is to condition water for industrial, research and residential drinking water and swimming pool use.
Some companies put conditioners into their products that correct water problems, while others don't, he said. Make sure you know which ones contain the additive, he said. Water may need treated to correct pH levels or hardness or both, he said.
Whitford said "good enough" isn't acceptable in today's agriculture market.
"The quality of water used in the spray tank can make or break the application," he said.
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