May 17, 2021
Wetter late than never
(Sponsored) A wetting agent can be an invaluable tool within organic agriculture, as agronomist Francisco Rivera from OMEX® Agrifluids USA explains.
Wetting agents are commonly seen in conventional agriculture, where growers often use them to make crop protection products work harder, reducing the amounts they need to apply.
But with the growing availability of natural, nonsynthetic wetters, their benefits are increasingly opening up to organic growers too. Of course, they’re not being used to improve pesticide efficiency but it’s that same characteristic — the ability to reduce the surface tension of water — that offers organic growers some real benefits.
“Surface tension can make it difficult for root hairs to absorb soil moisture and the nutrients it carries with it,” Francisco explains. “Reducing this surface tension can increase the efficiency of nutrient uptake by crops, while helping to alleviate compacted soils and resolve water penetration problems.”
Many wetting agents are synthesized chemicals, not permitted in organic agriculture. But wetting agents are also found in nature. OMEX® has turned to the Mohave yucca plant (Yucca schidigera), native to the south-western deserts of North America, for the active component of its OrganOMEX™ Organic Wetter.
Yucca extract is rich in a class of compounds known as ‘steroidal saponins’. Saponins are natural surfactants — a form of soap — that are found in many plants, but only a few contain sufficient concentrations to make industrial extraction viable.
Yucca saponins comprise at least five different saponins. Research suggests that complex interactions between these saponins and other compounds within the extract contribute to the unique properties of these products.
“We’ve turned to the world’s largest producer of yucca extract to source the raw material for OrganOMEX™,” says Francisco. “It works under a strict harvest permit system, which not only ensures good stewardship of the desert and its ecosystem, but also provides 100 per cent traceability for all our yucca products.
“While it’s a niche market at the moment, growers are beginning to appreciate the value of incorporating a good wetting agent. It can improve both water-use and nutrient-use efficiency on-farm, improving soil penetration and absorption and reducing run-off from fertigation and irrigation,” explains Francisco, pointing to a 70 per cent increase in sales since 2012.
OMEX® has secured OMRI listing for OrganOMEX™, a pasteurized yucca extract in liquid form. “The liquid form offers 100 per cent solubility at recommended dosages,” says Francisco, “offering a significant advantage over granular or powdered wetters that can be difficult to mix.”
Yucca extract also offers growers a further advantage over other wetters, Francisco explains. “All wetters are surfactants; that’s the basic characteristic that makes a compound a wetting agent.
“But yucca also offers the grower humectant properties. This means it can attract water vapor from the atmosphere, condensing it into a liquid form that the plant can absorb. So, as well as aiding water penetration within the soil profile, and remedying hydrophobic problems, OrganOMEX™ can also help soils to retain moisture subsequently. It allows crops to make better use of water derived from later rainfall.”
Francisco says the yucca extract can be successfully added to compost teas, where it will help improve both soil and foliar penetration.
Recommended usage rates are 16oz per acre for normal soils, but this can be increased up to 32oz per acre for compacted soils, or soils known to possess poor water penetration. OrganOMEX™ is recommended for transplants at a rate of 16oz per acre, when it can help to alleviate transplant stress.
For more information about OrganOMEX™ Organic Wetter, call OMEX® Agrifluids at 559-661-6138 or email OmexUSA@omex.com.
Learn more at www.OMEXusa.com.
The product names and brands referenced here are registered and trademarks of OMEX® Agrifluids, Inc.
© OMEX® Agrifluids, Inc. 2021.