Crop protection has become one of the key concerns in meeting the never-ending demand for food across the globe. Based on the data from 2007 to 2013, the Weed Science Society of America (WSSA) estimated the annual potential loss in the value of crops, such as corn and soybean due to weeds and pests, at $27 billion and $16 billion, respectively. In the past, such cases resulted in the loss of approximately 20% to 40% of agricultural productivity.
Identifying this increasing demand for crop/plant safety, companies have come up with agricultural adjuvants, which assist in maximizing the quality, productivity and sustainability of the agricultural production systems, disease vector management in the public health systems, and in other industrial and residential areas. These do not directly kill pests, instead, these modify certain properties of the spray solution, which improves the ability of the pesticide to penetrate, target or protect the target organism.
The concept of “green crop protection” is spreading rapidly across the globe, and it may be the future of the agricultural sector. This is driving the demand for agricultural adjuvants, as these are important to manage the increasing concern over pesticide residues on food and the problem of pest resistance. Many countries are following the trend of lowering the level of Maximum Residue Limit (MRL), and this is expected to continue in the future. Companies in the agricultural adjuvants market across the globe have launched a wide range of products that provide sustainability, crop quality and harvest flexibility benefits. By 2020, it is expected that a significant number of traditional agrochemical companies will enter this market, which will further consolidate the resource.
The agricultural adjuvants market encompasses a wide array of product types, such as activators, utility modifiers and others, including thickening agents, spreaders and stickers. The activator modifiers dominated the global agricultural adjuvants market in 2017, with a market share of more than 50% in value and more than 40% in volume. This type of adjuvant is also expected to see the best growth prospects by 2022 due to its application on a large-scale to increase the efficiency of crop protection products. These modifiers work to improve the biological performance of pesticides by altering their characteristics: be it the particle size, thickness of the spray or herbicide solubility in the spray solution. Though comparatively less utilized, spray modifiers change the physicochemical characteristics of the spray solution.
Primarily, these agricultural adjuvants are mixed with herbicides and fungicides, to be sprayed over various crop, such as fruits, vegetables, cereal and oilseeds, among others. Utilization of these adjuvants in insecticides has been comparatively less until now. These adjuvants reach the crops/farms through various methods of propagation for crop protection. More than 40% of the times, the foliar spray method is used for propagation. Currently, North America is at the forefront in the agricultural adjuvants market, with high market penetration in countries such as the United States (U.S.), Canada and Mexico, due to the growing consumption rate of adjuvants in these countries.
The American Society for Testing and Materials International (ASTM) and Council of Producers and Distributors of Agro technology (CPDA) are regulating adjuvant products in the U.S., whereas in Canada, particularly for pesticides, Health Canada regulates their usage under the Pest Control Products Act (PCPA), which makes it mandatory to register the pesticide before it can be used in Canada. Agricultural adjuvants in the country are regulated by the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) section of Health Canada.
Stringent regulatory norms regarding the Maximum Residue Limit (MRL) in the North American and European regions are expected to guide the adjuvants demand in the Asia-Pacific region, especially in China, Japan and India, in the coming years(as shown in figure 1). The Asia-Pacific region is anticipated to show the highest growth rate over the next five years because of the increased number of initiatives and investments in research and development done by various companies in the region to increase the usage of adjuvants.
The growth of the agricultural adjuvants market as a whole is being driven by certain factors such as the increasing consumption of agrochemicals (for both crop and non-crop use), awareness regarding the hazards of using chemical pesticides, and the development of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques, among others.
Agrochemicals and agricultural adjuvants go hand-in-hand, wherein the high consumption of agrochemicals will support the growth of adjuvants(as shown in figure 2). Thus, agrochemicals can be said to have promoted the development of this industry. However, there are certain challenges that are inhibiting the overall growth of the agricultural adjuvants market(as shown in figure 3).
To reduce the environmental effects, consumers are increasingly using methods such as manual removal, application of heat, covering of the weed with plastic using taps and lures, and other similar techniques. Some authorities have put a hold on or banned certain kinds of ingredients used for making these adjuvants. Talking about the opportunities that exist in the market, there is an increasing demand for oil-based pesticides due to their ability to stay in the crop/plant for a longer duration. Also, the demand for bio-based adjuvants has witnessed a sharp rise, primarily due to the general perception that bio-based adjuvants are safer and more environment friendly than traditional adjuvants.
A highly fragmented one, the market currently involves several small and large players from the agrochemical industry. AkzoNobel N.V., Brandt Consolidated Inc., Croda International PLC, Evonik Industries Ag, Helena Chemical Company, Huntsman International LLC, Nufarm Limited, Solvay and
The DOW Chemical Company are some of the prominent players in the agricultural adjuvants market. The market is widely considered as an emerging market by governments of various countries and players operating in the market. Significant efforts are being made by them, primarily in the form of business expansion strategies and product launches, to explore the potential opportunities that exist in this market and compete with the other players(as shown in figure 4).
Brandt Consolidated Inc. (U.S.) constructed a new 2,000-square-foot formulations laboratory in Illinois, U.S., in February 2018 to carry out development and testing. Croda International Plc (U.K.) opened their Centre of Innovation for Formulation Science at the University of Liverpool’s new Materials Innovation Factory (MIF) in November 2017 to utilise state-of-the-art automated technologies to enhance their capabilities. Earlier, in October 2017, the company opened a new plant in New Castle, Delaware, which can produce renewable and bio-based non-ionic surfactants. Aqua-Yield, a company based out of the U.S., introduced a new herbicide adjuvant “Nano-Pro” in November 2017. Each 2.5-gallon container of Nano-Pro will be able to service 80 acres of farmland for weed control. The NutriAg Group launched a spray adjuvant “BB5 Platinum” in February 2016. This adjuvant minimizes water pH, water hardness, water conductivity, leaf surface pH and surface tension.
According to BIS Research report, the agricultural adjuvants market is expected to reach $3,594.1 million and 312.8 kilotons by 2021 at a compound annual growth rate(CAGR) of 5.5% and 7.1%, respectively, from 2016 to 2021. This growth is attributed to the increasing demand for IPM techniques and the adoption of green crop protection concepts globally. Moreover, with the growing adoption of precision farming techniques, the use of agricultural adjuvants is also expected to increase, as precision farming techniques use adjuvants for the appropriate agrochemical application.
Though agricultural adjuvants have been available for a couple of decades now, there remains wide scope for innovations and technological advancements in the field. From the global perspective, these adjuvants have been successful to a large extent in enhancing the quality and quantity of agricultural produce. The key focus now should be on the pre-determined dosage of the adjuvants and their applications on farms and crops.