Fluency Agent: Farmers Asked. Bayer Answered

May 01, 2014

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By Amanda Brodhagen, Farms.com

Often with something new, there can be a normal amount of confusion. This appears to be the case for a new seed flow lubricant called Fluency Agent, which is now required for use when a seed flow lubricant is used during planting of neonicotinoid treated corn and soybean seed. The product, Fluency Agent, is a replacement for talc, graphite and talc/graphite based seed lubricants.

Even before the 2014 planting season, farmers have taken to social media sites like Twitter to share their confusion and frustration with the new product. The online exchanges have revolved around applying the product or perceptions on application of the product, and less so about being displeased about having to use the product in the first place.

When the case is made that a product is better for the environment, in this case pollinators, specifically bees, farmers are happy to do their part towards being a part of the solution. Farmers sent in their questions (which can be seen in the Q and A section below) and Bayer CropScience addressed many of their concerns.

Background about Fluency Agent

Fluency Agent was developed in 2013 by Bayer CropScience scientists in the United States. “They were reacting to concerns over the potential risk of exposure to pollinators from AI dust coming off the planters,” Christopher Turcot, Portfolio Manager for Eastern Canada at Bayer CropScience said in an interview.

Bayer conducted in-house testing of Fluency Agent where they measured the amount of active ingredient that was released from the planter exhaust. Lab studies suggested that it was reduced by 65 per cent.

Following lab trials, the company then conducted large-scale field trails across North America - 40,000 acres were tested, including 13,000 acres in Ontario and Quebec.

“We did follow-up trials to see how it worked and we were very pleased with the results,” explained Turcot.

In September, Bayer CropScience released the findings of its trials. One month later, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) looked at the results and decided to make it mandatory for use on neonicotinoid treated corn and soybean seeds.

Bayer CropScience said originally it had thought the product would be used (voluntarily) on approximately a quarter of the corn areas in Canada for 2014. But then PMRA decided to make it mandatory in October 2013. “It was a bit of a scramble to get it to the market,” he said.

Fluency Agent is required when a grower uses a seed flow lubricant with neonicotinoid treated corn and soybean seed. “If you have not used talc or graphite to lubricate your seed through the planter, then you don’t need to use it now,” Turcot clarifies.

Q & A with Bayer CropScience

Q. What is the best way to “fluff up” the product? One farmer explained that the product “seemed really settled in the pail,” and expressed that it’s hard to measure out evenly.

A. Fluency Agent is different than talc or graphite. “Talc is a very fluffy product” explained Turcot, adding that one of the problems with talc is that it easily disperses into the air. Bayer CropScience says that if growers use the label rate and the provided 1/8 cup measuring scoop that it should be okay. Following the label rate is important because if a grower over applies the product, it won’t work as effectively. Bayer says that the product is wax-based and if too much is added clumping may occur. “With talc and graphite generally growers might not have been as careful with rates,” he said.  “You can’t do that with Fluency Agent.”

Rates of Application

Crop

Application Rate

Seed Unit Size

Corn

1/8 cup

80,000 seeds

Soybeans

1/8 cup

140,000 seeds


Q. Why aren’t the pails filled up to the top? One farmer says that his pails appear to only be half full.

A. The pails are only partially full because Bayer had to rush the product to market. “We had to use a standard pail size that we could order with a short timeline and would work in a manufacturing line,” said Turcot. Bayer CropScience says that it realizes that the pails are only half full and explained that it was the only way that they could get the product to market in time to meet PMRA’s needs. The company is looking at different options for next year. “It’s not optimum,” he said.

Q. What temperature should Fluency Agent be stored at? And at what temperature does it become “too sticky”? Another farmer expressed concern about yellow seed tanks getting extremely hot inside.

A. Bayer says it has not seen any issues in the trials with temperature – no issues with heat or cold. “Ideally you should store it in your unheated shed,” suggests Turcot.

Q. How do you recommend applying Fluency Agent in a John Deere central commodity system (CCS) planter? A reader made the comment - if the answer is buy an applicator, then why isn’t it provided by Bayer? And does the product need to be stirred in?

A. Bayer CropScience says the product should be layered in as the grower puts the seed into the planter and then make sure it’s “evenly dispersed”. “You don’t have to mix it in like you were baking,” he said. There is no need for an applicator.

Q. If CCS tank bridging occurs in round seeded corn – what is the solution? One farmer said that adding graphite to talc was the answer. Question refers to dust in the manifold (not that he wants to mix the two).

A. Growers that participated in the field trials experienced no issues with this. “In fact one comment that came in is that it can be too slippery,” Turcot recalls. Comments from growers who participated in the trials were that Fluency Agent works just as well as talc or graphite.

Q. Do you have any recommendations for handler safety? And how does it degrade in the environment?

A. Bayer CropScience recommends handlers to read the instructions, and says that it’s a non-toxic product.

Top takeaways:

• Follow the label rate. If you over apply Fluency Agent it won’t work effectively.  
• For centre fill hoppers, disperse the product while adding seed into the planter. This can be done in two ways: 

a. As the seed is loading, apply Fluency Agent intermittently directly into the hopper with the seed.
b. As the seed is loading, apply Fluency Agent intermittently onto the conveyor or auger as the seed is being carried to the hopper.

• If you are using individual hopper units add the product on top of the seed in the hopper then give it a quick stir with a stick or gloved hand.
• Bayer CropScience considers the product an industry stewardship initiative.
• The agriculture industry has done a very good job of reacting to PMRA’s mandatory requirement to use Fluency Agent by distributing and creating awareness for this stewardship initiative by moving 6.5M acres of product into the market by the end of April.

Editor’s note: Questions were submitted from farmers themselves, with minor rewording. Farms.com would like to thank the growers for raising their concerns and Bayer for agreeing to address their questions in an interview.  
 

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