A common question we are asked is what is the best wetting agent for lawns and turf in Australia? Before we can answer this we need to know what a soil wetting agent. The use of soil-wetting agents to simply reduce surface tension and aid water movement into hydrophobic soils is becoming a thing of the past. Soil-wetting agents now do a lot more than just wetting the soil. Now there is an entirely new generation of soil surfactants on the market in Australia. These offer more traditional benefits coupled with significant plant health effects. This rapidly evolving market is being led by the guys at Rhizosolutions® with Hydroforce® Ultra which has some strong claims to be the best soil wetting agent in Australia.
Hydroforce® Ultra is an innovative new soil wetting agent that provides a rapid response soil, consistent soil dry down, and superior rehydration. The unique combination of infiltration and rehydration properties means Hydroforce® Ultra helps ensure consistent hydration as well as providing superior rehydration.
When used as per the label directions Hydroforce® Ultra will significantly improve turfgrass quality and stress resistance coupled with up to a 30% increase in root mass.
Do soil wetting agents work?
The following is some independent trial work carried out on cool-season bent/Poa annua fairways. Hydroforce® Ultra was trialled against Dispatch® (Aquatrols) and an untreated control. Hydroforce® Ultra consistently:
- Improves and maintains turf quality;
- Maintains higher volumetric moisture contents (VMC %) when applied at label rates.
The video below shows the outstanding performance of Hydroforce® Ultra on a golf course fairway in the UK. I’ll let you figure out which half of the fairway has been treated!
Being the best wetting agent means Hydroforce® Ultra gives great results on greens.
Next is a 2021 study from the USA on a mixed Poa/bentgrass green. The green comprised V8 bentgrass. Hydroforce® Ultra was applied at 13L/Ha compared to Pervade® (Floratine) applied at 6.4L/Ha. Results show:
- Significantly less localised dry spot than either the Pervade® treatment or untreated control;
- More consistent volumetric moisture capacity (VMC%)
- An approximately 30% increase in root mass and
- A massive reduction in the need to hand water.
The following video is from Ludlow GC in the UK and shows just how rapidly water penetrates the root zone following the application. In the UK it is marketed as Prowet Evolve®.
Improving turf nematode control.
A study looked at nematode control in couch grass. Treatments were a mixture of the nematicide abamectin and wetting agent Hydroforce® Ultra, abamectin by itself, and Hydroforce® Ultra by itself. The combination of Hydroforce® Ultra and abamectin provided the best treatment. However, Hydroforce® Ultra as a stand-alone treatment gave better turf quality than the nematicide by itself. The reason for this is as It allows water to be used more efficiently, and distributed more uniformly into the soil profile.
Do wetting agents retain water or help it penetrate into the soil profile?
When wetting agents were first introduced to the market they were designed to help water move into the soil profile by reducing surface water repellency and hydrophobicity. Many of these were excellent at doing this but were also likely to cause turf damage if not watered in immediately. Over time the chemistry has improved so that now soil-wetting agents also help water move evenly through the soil profile and also have plant health benefits. That’s a key difference with Hydroforce® Ultra. Not only is it an excellent soil-wetting agent it has numerous secondary benefits such as improving root volume and turf health.
The soil chemistry of any wetting agent will influence how it performs. For example, in a US study of 15 wetting agents a modified polysiloxane gave the lowest surface tension. This reduces water surface tension to a third of tap water! This is called Consume® in Australia
Our current wetting agent trial is looking at answering questions such as their ability to retain water so stay tuned!
Does soil wetting agent need watering in?
Soil wetting agents work in the soil, so after applying they need to be watered in. The question should be how long after application can they be left before watering in? Ideally, they should be immediately watered in following application but we live in far from an ideal world! Hydroforce Ultra uses an innovative block polymer technology that offers exceptional safety after application. However, it is still recommended to Irrigate after application to move the product into the root zone.
Are all wetting agents the same?
Due to differences in formulation soil wetting agents differ in their effects on water infiltration, retention, and ability to reduce surface tension. For example, recent wetting agent trials have shown that there a big differences in their ability to retain soil moisture.
How long do wetting agents last?
The two main factors influencing this are their chemistry and environmental conditions. Some are marketed as only needing to be applied once-a-season and claim to last up to three months. The issue that we have with this is that you don’t know when they stop working so it can lead to periods when effectively no wetting agent is present. If a soil wetting agent lasts a month and you apply on a regular basis then you avoid these issues developing. Always ask for independent data to support any claims made rather than relying on a glossy brochure.
Why do some wetting agents burn grass and cause damage when applied?
Some surfactants dissolve cuticle/wax layers on the leaf blades causing discoloration and burning if allowed to stay on the leaf surface too long. Hyroforce Ultra contains no harmful chemicals
that can cause turf burn. However, as with most things if you apply any chemical when it’s blistering hot and don’t follow the label in regard to watering in you are asking for trouble.
Can I use washing up liquid as a soil wetting agent?
The addition of ordinary washing detergent can give a short term improvement in water penetration into the soil. However, many household detergents contain high phosphate levels which can wash into our drains and streams and are harmful to wildlife. Also, they can be very phytotoxic. Stick to a specialized formulator.
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