Farmers tackling copper-deficient fields will have a new, far cheaper, liquid fertilizer option in 2021. Priced at about a third of the cost of current copper options, Copper Liquid 5.2% also offers a host of additional benefits, says its manufacturer.
“Some people will look at this product and say, ‘What’s so special?’ It’s very special, actually,” says Paul Sinkevich, Professional Agriculture Distribution’s business development specialist for North America.
At a glance: The product is a third of the cost of other options at five to six dollars per acre, mixes easily with most pesticides, is a bactericide, and the molecules are a fraction of the size of copper sulphate molecules, claims the company.
“At five to six dollars per acre, it costs a fraction of what they’re currently paying per acre, and it’s much more effective and faster. Most people think of copper as a micronutrient and fertilizer. The difference is this technology is also registered as a bactericide.”
While Copper Liquid 5.2% is derived from copper, the patented technology is completely different than a standard copper molecule, explains Sinkevich. First, unlike traditional copper products, Copper Liquid 5.2% is a true liquid that mixes easily with most pesticides.
Second, the ionization process it undergoes means Copper Liquid 5.2% molecules are a fraction of the size of copper sulphate molecules.
“Look at it this way, if you take a boardroom table and you put basketballs all over it, how much of the table’s surface is actually contacting the balls? Now clear off those basketballs and replace them with ping-pong balls. A whole lot more of the table will be in contact with the smaller ping-pong balls. Our molecule works the same way — its nano-sized particle means it is in contact with much more of the leaf surface,” says Sinkevich.
In fact, he says, Copper Liquid 5.2% offers 420 times the copper ions per square inch of leaf surface compared to regular copper sulphate, which means it is more effective at lower application rates.
“In all our trials, we were applying one-tenth the rate that others have to go on at, and at that rate we’re still about 20 to 30 per cent more effective than other copper products,” says Sinkevich. “You only need 100 millilitres per acre for cereal crops. Just tank mix it with your herbicide and apply.”
Currently, only ProAg’s internal test results are available to prove that claim. However, third-party trial data will be available by 2022.
Copper Liquid 5.2% will, first and foremost, be used as a fertilizer on copper-deficient soils, an issue that affects millions of acres across Western Canada. The product is far safer and more environmentally sustainable than traditional copper products, says Sinkevich.
In the field, agricultural application is just the latest use for this product. The chemistry was originally created as an alternative to copper sulphate treatments for sewage, then proved a safer, more sustainable way of treating drinking water.
It also shows impressive efficacy against bacterial disease in agriculture. To date, it has only been registered to control bacterial blight in blueberries.
“We’ve been working on (gaining pesticide) registrations in Canada for six years. We finally got our blueberry registration in August. You have to add each additional crop individually, though it works the same in all crops. We’re hoping to rapidly expand to other crops over the next couple of years. We’ll be adding additional crops to the label as quickly as we can register them,” says Chris Noske, ProAg’s president.
Copper Liquid 5.2% is an ionized product, which means it is immediately effective as a bactericide as soon as it is applied.
“When you spray copper sulphate or copper hydroxychloride onto plants, it takes approximately four days for copper to start ionizing on the leaf surface. Because our product is already ionized, it starts working immediately,” says Sinkevich.
Applying ionized copper as a bactericide in agricultural fields may be the latest, but unlikely the last, use of this new technology. Early research also shows efficacy in anti-cancer trials, and ionized copper may even have a role in COVID-19 treatment, as the ionized copper shows excellent efficacy on the virus and other harmful organisms.
“Humans knew thousands of years ago that copper is antimicrobial. That it’s so effective isn’t really a surprise,” says Sinkevich.
“Everyone uses copper,” adds Noske. “To switch them from something that works sometimes to something that works always, is easier to mix, is cheaper per acre and has multiple benefits? It’s only a matter of time before this is the standard.”