Published March 8, 2022

For the Farmer: What’s in your water?

Written by
Charlie Adams
| The Dakotan
Spraying (Hefty Seed Company) [Photo: submitted by Charlie Adams]
Spraying (Hefty Seed Company) [Photo: submitted by Charlie Adams]

In the realm of making improvements to your farming practices, there are certain topics that you read about all the time. For example: what the newest and greatest herbicides are this year, what seed traits are the best fit for your acres, new planting equipment technology, and software you should be using to manage the farm. Some of these are very big and elaborate topics with a lot of things to think about. Staying on top of these topics could mean huge return-on-investment benefits for your operation.

However, do you ever wonder what is in your spray water? Where do you get your spray water? What source does your farm use for water when it comes to treating your own seed or applying with your foliar applied fertilizers?

There is a major movement in production agriculture today toward the technology in beneficial biological products. Or as they are often called, natural products. These are products are derived from natural sources such as bacterial or fungal sources that can be applied in a variety of ways to maximize the functions of plant health.

Before having a conversation if any of these exciting new products are a fit on the farm, growers must take a step back and understand the importance of water source. The fact is that City or Rural water sources add chlorine to water to kill microbes and keep water safe for consumption. Also, well water has multiple factors that also affect biological survival. Hard water and high pH (a measure of how acidic water is) lessen the chances for biological products to move within the plant structure.

With regard to City or Rural Water, one of our local area water districts, the Upper Souris Water District issues an annual water quality report. In that report for the year 2020, they state that, “Your water is also treated by disinfection. Disinfection involves the addition of chlorine or other disinfectants to kill bacteria and other microorganisms (viruses, cysts, etc.) that may be in the water.”

As you can see, if you are not correcting your water chlorination levels, then you may be wasting your effort on the newest biological technology. Fortunately, there are products that can easily and inexpensively correct chlorine, pH, and hardness issues that may be in your water.

This season, there are new products that claim to save you thousands of dollars on fertilizer expenses by using microbes to take nitrogen from the air and create an ammonia that plants can use. If you are using a rural water source and using this product, you are throwing those dollars out the sprayer window.

Those products specifically call for the use of a chlorine remediation product for microbial safety. Your water source may be affecting other products besides biologicals. A Michigan State study as far back as 2008 outlined a long list of pesticide products that are negatively affected by water pH levels. A chart shows the optimum pH level for each pesticide. For example, a common fungicide used in our area is propiconazole. This fungicide is typically a cheap treatment used in the initial stages of wheat growth. According to this study, the optimum pH levels for propiconazole is 5-9. With respect to herbicides, banvel is a generic dicamba product that requires a pH of 5-6. Chances are that your water pH is outside of that level. As many water sources are more alkaline than this, it may be necessary to adjust the pH of the spray solution.

There are several products that can adjust water pH and reduce the chlorine content of your water. Two main ones are Bio-Prep and Water-Rite.

Bio-Prep is a water pre-treatment that reverses the negative effects chlorine has on biological products. Bio-Prep turns chlorine into the safer chloride form, which is an essential plant nutrient and is no longer harmful to beneficial microbes.

Water-Rite is a water pre-treatment designed to reduce the negative effects calcium, magnesium, iron, and copper have on fertilizer, herbicides, and pesticides. Using Water-Rite will also maximize the availability and efficacy of glyphosate and other phosphate chemistries. When combined with Bio-Prep, these two products are an ideal solution for keeping beneficial biology safe in tank mixes. The great news is these products treat your water for just a few cents per acre. The only thing you need to do is exercise discipline and remember to add them to the tank each time.

So, if you have the tendency to feel overwhelmed with new information every spring from every new sales guy pushing every new piece of equipment and technology, take a step back and look at the little things. Like your water source.

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