Brian Kuehl

Brian Kuehl is the director of product development for West Central Distribution.

WILLMAR, Minn. — Nineteen years as Director of Product Development for West Central Distribution, Brian Kuehl obviously has ‘inside tracking’ on what’s going on in the crop protection industry. West Central is a wholesale distributor of crop protection products, crop nutrient products, micronutrients, seed treatments and inoculants.

So how do farmers keep up on this constantly-expanding choice of products introduced to make crop production more rewarding?

Kuehl admits it’s a difficult challenge. “With continual advances in hybrid genetics and pesticide technology, producers are indeed challenged. That’s called progress. But today’s farmers are smart. They’re aware of weeds adapting to changing environments. Aggressive high-performance hybrids are requiring more aggressive fertility practices. Farmers are changing their strategies too. Cover crops are becoming common; but that triggers more questions. In this challenge of building healthier soils, tillage practices are changing with reduced tillage now the norm. Even crop rotations are changing.”

Kuehl said weed challenges faced by farmers today depends on location. “For decades, kochia has been a difficult weed. Today you’ve got resistant rag weed and waterhemp that have been a problem in many geographies for years. And now, resistant Palmer amaranth is being detected in more geographies.”

Finding more efficient ways to tackle weeds is always a high priority. That drives the continual research for new herbicides or new adjuvants to help existing herbicides work better. This need fueled West Central’s launching of Last Chance.

“Last Chance is one of our new products designed to significantly increase performance over the standard adjuvant program,” said Kuehl. He went on to say Last Chance is compatible with a broad range of conventional and traited crop herbicides as well as non-crop situations. “Yes, this product is an excellent addition to a grower’s tool belt,” he said.

Adjuvants have been around for some time. “Essentially, they are like a coach,” Kuehl explained. “They help a pesticide perform to its peak activity. They can do everything from improving coverage on the plant’s surface to allowing for better deposition within that plant’s canopy. And they help keep that spray application in place — in essence, reducing drift tendencies. Adjuvant is a catch-all term covering surfactants, drift control agents, oils and even specific water conditioners to help prevent antagonism. When the spray water source is mineral saturated or of unknown quality, there can be a loss of active ingredients efficacy.”

Staying technical on us, Kuehl explained that for decades one of the best adjuvants for glyphosate activity was the tallow-amine surfactant. But it’s not cheap. Sometimes when you think of adjuvants you think of something fairly benign with little worries about safety. However, you need to be careful — which means proper handling, no contact with your eyes and normal safety procedures which are followed with pesticide applications.

“New ingredients are the core to Last Chance adjuvant with components including a product which helps the spray droplets stay wetter longer. These active ingredients significantly increase performance over the standard adjuvant program,” said Kuehl. Plus, Last Chance is compatible with a broad range of conventional and traited crops as well as non-crop situations.

“We came up with what we consider the perfect blend of ingredients to help maximize the efficacy of glyphosate, also glufosinate and dicamba and 2,4-D technologies as well.”

Is this product giving new life to glyphosate? Kuehl chuckled, “I would not call this a new life for glyphosate. Glyphosate doesn’t need new life. It’s been around a long time and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. It’s the backbone of many of our applications. But we feel these new adjuvants are giving us better efficacy. When we named this product Last Chance we were thinking if you are in a difficult weed situation, this is your last chance. But we realize now it has not only ‘rescue value,’ but also as a regular in-season application during the course of the year.”

Another new product from West Central is Paralign — a 5-15-3 fertilizer with 0.8 percent chelated zinc.  It contains a 1-to-3 ratio of nitrogen to phosphorus which is the ideal ratio for the two nutrients to work synergistically to maximize early season growth and development. Kuehl indicated research has shown deficiency symptoms can appear — not from a lack of nutrients, but rather not having the right ratio with other nutrients. He explained a starter fertilizer provides easier access to nutrients resulting in better early season growth. The small seedling with immature root systems have a more difficult time pulling nutrients out of the soil.

Paralign features two unique modes of actions: the Levesol chelate and the enzyme hemicellulase.    Levesol increases the amount of phosphorous available by ensuring the nutrient does not combine with positively-charged metal ions in the soil. Levesol is a first-of-its-kind chelating agent which can be added directly to other starter fertilizers — liquid or dry.

Soil extraction analyses demonstrated available phosphorous can be increased by up to 47 percent when Levesol is applied with a dry starter such as MAP or DAP.  Studies show even higher increase for micronutrients like zinc, iron, manganese and copper.

With colder soils likely for this planting season, will there be any changes in strategy? Kuehl suggests not to make significant changes in crop rotations or hybrid and variety selection unless absolutely necessary. “Things can get messed up for future plans. So don’t deviate unless you absolutely have to. But there are considerations. Both seed treatments and starter fertilizers should be considered to improve the health and development of the crop. Talk with your local retail agronomist. There are many highly-trained professionals ready to assist.”

For a listing of West Central crop protection products, go www.wcdst.com. For information on using any of these products, ask your local agriculture product retailer.