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If you haven't been testing spray water for both and paying attention to pH, here's a chance to improve spraying efficiency.

Tom Bechman 1, Editor, Indiana Prairie Farm

January 5, 2016

2 Min Read

A farmer who viewed the article with Fred Whitford about water pH and water hardness being important to consider before mixing up spray solutions responded.

Whitford, Purdue University Director of Pesticide Programs, made the distinct point in that article that water pH and water hardness are two different things. They are not directly connected. Correcting one does not necessarily correct the other, he indicated.


The farmer reading the article was surprised. He has always checked for hardness and added adjuvants because his water is hard, but he mistakenly thought that also took care of potential pH problems. The pH of the water used to make spray solution becomes a problem if it is too acid or too base for the chemistries being added to it. In fact, this farmer had not checked for pH because he didn't realize that pH by itself was important.

He also didn't know that herbicides include sections on their labels indicating the ideal pH range for the solution containing the herbicide. Many herbicides are slightly acidic, but not all, Whitford says. Some work better at certain pH ranges for the spray solution that at other pH ranges. Improved performance on weed control and/or potential crop injury hang in the balance.

This issue piqued this farmer's interest because he encountered crop injury problems on soybeans in 2015. Residual herbicides applied before planting affected seedling emergence and cut stands, sometimes by 60% or more. Whether pH of the spray solution was a factor or not is unknown.

One reason it is unknown is because the farmer doesn't know what the pH of his water is in the first place. He says that is going to change this year. Whitford says swimming pool maintenance kits, largely consisting of litmus paper, are available to check both hardness and pH. The farmer intends to check the pH of his water, and then refer to herbicide labels for the products he is using to make sure he gets it right this year.

Once he checks his water pH, we will let you know what he discovers, and whether it was a potential factor in his crop injury problems in 2015 or not.

About the Author(s)

Tom Bechman 1

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farm

Tom Bechman is an important cog in the Farm Progress machinery. In addition to serving as editor of Indiana Prairie Farmer, Tom is nationally known for his coverage of Midwest agronomy, conservation, no-till farming, farm management, farm safety, high-tech farming and personal property tax relief. His byline appears monthly in many of the 18 state and regional farm magazines published by Farm Progress.

"I consider it my responsibility and opportunity as a farm magazine editor to supply useful information that will help today's farm families survive and thrive," the veteran editor says.

Tom graduated from Whiteland (Ind.) High School, earned his B.S. in animal science and agricultural education from Purdue University in 1975 and an M.S. in dairy nutrition two years later. He first joined the magazine as a field editor in 1981 after four years as a vocational agriculture teacher.

Tom enjoys interacting with farm families, university specialists and industry leaders, gathering and sifting through loads of information available in agriculture today. "Whenever I find a new idea or a new thought that could either improve someone's life or their income, I consider it a personal challenge to discover how to present it in the most useful form, " he says.

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