Formulating Dry Flowables for Agricultural Applications

Despite the sustainable benefits and formulation advantages, there appear to be fewer laboratories formulating dry flowables (DFs) due to their unique challenges. The Stepan Agricultural Solutions formulation development team has the experience to solve some of the most complex formulation and surfactant challenges, particularly pertaining to DF. 

Formulating Dry Flowables for Agricultural Applications

As the focus on sustainable products and processes increases across the agricultural industry1, dry flowable (DF) formulations, including water dispersible granules (WDGs) and wettable powders (WPs) are well suited to help agriculture formulators address new or ongoing requirements with a focus on improved sustainability profile.

DF formulations, which are solid materials in powder or granular form, afford several advantages when compared to traditional liquid formulations such as emulsifiable concentrates (ECs) and oil-in-water emulsions (EW). These include the ability to use less water during the manufacturing process, the absence of organic solvents, the potential to deliver a higher loading of active ingredients, as well as reduced packaging and transportation costs to improve distribution efficiency and allow for easier clean-up of packaging.

In addition, newly created active ingredients are increasingly complex and often lack solubility in common solvents, making DFs a preferred delivery system. The active levels range from 50 – 90% with the remainder being inert material. The final product is ultimately diluted in water before application, forming a homogenous mixture of dispersed, suspended particles in water.

Despite the sustainable benefits and formulation advantages, there appear to be fewer laboratories formulating dry materials due to the following unique challenges:

  1. The need for specialized processing equipment
  2. Limited availability of solid inerts
  3. Significant product testing protocol (suspensibility, dispersibility, wet sieve, attrition, etc.)
  4. Difficulty in creating durable granules that will withstand transportation, but readily disperse and suspend when added to water

With a combined experience of more than 100 years in agricultural formulation development, the Stepan Agricultural Solutions formulation development team is dedicated to providing formulation support to our customers. Stepan’s range of experience in formulation technology and knowledge of the global business landscape enables us to understand the complex issues of today’s agricultural market. Our team has the expertise to successfully formulate a variety of delivery systems. Two scientists within this specialized team offer more than 38 years of experience in the formulation and production of DFs. Their expertise, tenacity and outside the box thinking allows them to solve some of the most complex formulation and surfactant challenges, particularly pertaining to DF. 

Stepan Research Chemist Krista Turpin has more than 26 years of agricultural formulation experience. The majority of Turpin’s work has been centered on formulations involving particle-based systems, including WPs, WDGs and suspension concentrates (SCs). As the leading subject matter expert in dry formulations for Stepan Agricultural Solutions, Turpin offers expertise in dry materials that is increasingly hard to come by in the industry. 

Stepan Agricultural Solutions Product Development Chemist Amy Taylor has 12 years of agricultural formulation experience. Having dedicated the first half of her career formulating WPs, WDGs and SCs, Taylor continued her career formulating other delivery systems such as ECs and oil dispersions (ODs). She is the leading subject matter expert in oil dispersion formulations at Stepan and directs the Stepan Agricultural training team, teaching internal employees and external customers about the nuances of working with Stepan ingredients and agricultural formulating.

Stepan offers two product lines of solid surfactants, STEPWET® and STEPSPERSE®, for use as agricultural inerts. Stepan’s dry products are used as wetting agents and dispersants in DF formulations. As a wetting agent, STEPWET helps to reduce surface tension to allow the active ingredient to wet the surface. It can also help with tank mix compatibility.

The STEPSPERSE® DF product line is a blend of sodium lignosulfonates with surfactants. These particular products act as a dispersant to suspend the particles of a formulation, work as a binder to help strengthen the granules and as a disintegrant to help break the granules apart when diluted in water. The addition of surfactants offers advantages such as formulation flexibility, better wetting, greater performance with high silica levels and improved compatibility. They can also improve the water tolerance and fertilizer compatibility of a tank mix.

Stepan’s DF lab, located in Winder, Georgia, is equipped with the technology and surfactants to prepare lab-scale dry flowable formulations. The lab has the capabilities to produce all four types of low-pressure extrusion — basket, dome, radial and axial — along with other types of granulation, including broadcast granules. Stepan Agricultural Solutions continues to invest in the development of new dispersant technologies for water dispersible granules and other particle-based delivery systems.

Our team is committed to supporting customers through the continuous development of sustainable products and product innovation. If you would like to discuss dry flowable formulations in more detail or how Stepan can best support your next project submit an inquiry to get in touch with an Agricultural Solutions technical expert and discuss your formulation needs today. 

1. AgFunder News 2019


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