How To: Check for tank mix compatibility

Tank mixing offers flexibility, saves time and may increase pesticide effectiveness. But without checking compatibility, the result may be a nightmare.

Tank-mixing chemicals is a convenient way to reduce labor and equipment use. It provides an efficient method of fertilizing while applying pesticides or a broader spectrum of control when two or more pesticides are mixed. However, an incompatible mix can be your worst nightmare. It can cause equipment damage, downtime, damage to desirable plants and chemical ineffectiveness.

Incompatible mixes can result from chemical or physical incompatibility. Chemical incompatibility occurs when one or more of the chemicals changes properties. Physical incompatibility causes the formation of lumps or gels - the chemicals do not disperse properly and settle out of suspension. Incompatibility can also take the form of foams, stratification in the tank, color changes and bubbles.

Reasons for incompatibility - Water source. Test your water souce. If you are using a proven mix and have trouble with compatibility, your water source may be the problem. Well water may contain iron, calcium and other elements that inhibit compatibility. Amine salt formulations react with calcium and magnesium and can form insoluble salts that render the herbicide less effective.

Often, city water is treated, and the result can be a high pH, which can decrease chemical life and effectiveness. Generally, spray-tank mixes are stable when the water pH is below 6.0. A pH between 6.0 and 7.0 is usually adequate if you spray the mix immediately. If the pH is above 7.0, use acidifiers and buffers to lower pH. However, some chemicals such as the sulfonylurea herbicides are more stable in high pH solution. Always read the label to find such information.

- Fertilizers. Be aware of the effect of fertilizers in the tank mix. Many fertilizers have a high pH, and some have a low pH. Nitrogenous fertilizers with urea and ammonia may result in a high tank pH that will cause incompatibility when mixed with pesticides. Some phosphorus fertilizers with phosphate or phosphoric acid, on the other hand, may create tank mixes with a low pH. Most liquid fertilizer suppliers will adjust their formulations to moderate pH levels, but it is important to talk with them about possible mixes you will be attempting.

- Temperatures. Many products cannot be mixed if water temperatures are too hot or too cold. Labels will state this information. As a rule of thumb, if the air temperature makes it uncomfortable to be outside, then it may not be advisable to perform mixing operations.

- Incorrect mixing order. Follow the methods listed here or on labels. Be sure that you are adding the chemicals to the proper amount of diluent (water).

- Physical or chemical properties. Some chemicals just don't mix. They combine to form new chemicals that may not be effective or may cause phytotoxicity. They also may combine to produce chemicals that are more caustic to handlers or damaging to equipment.

Formulations for mixing The formulations of chemicals determine the order in which you should add them when checking for compatibility and when tank-mixing. Always follow the proper methods for mixing, which are listed in the sidebars. These methods will list when and how each formulation should be added.

You can also use adjuvants and surfactants when mixing. These chemicals aid in mixing and promote pesticide effectiveness:

- Adjuvants. Use adjuvants to increase pesticide effectiveness or safety. They help active ingredients mix with water, penetrate target organisms, spread uniformly and stick to surfaces.

- Surfactants. Use surfactants to alter the dispersing, spreading and wetting properties of spray droplets. When mixing pesticides, you may have to use compatibility agents. These surfactants can aid mixing by affecting the ability of chemicals to disperse.

To determine compatibility, start by reading the label on the chemicals proposed for mixing. Many chemicals are not suitable for mixing and labels will say so. Many labels will list other chemicals that can or cannot be mixed with the pesticide. Also, many labels will detail methods for mixing that you should follow. If labels do not make any recommendations, you must perform your own compatibility test. To do so, follow these simple methods to determine if the chemicals you want to mix are compatible.

Methods for mixing and testing compatibility There are several testing methods available and they serve different purposes. They are referred to as jar tests because your initial test for compatibility should take place in a jar and not in the spray tank.

Use the first method, the W-A-L-E Method, when mixing pesticides. Start with a clear glass or plastic quart jar. Add 1 pint of water from the same water source that you will be using for your larger tank mixes. Add the pesticides in correct proportions in the order described in the sidebar for the W-A-L-E Method. Once you have mixed all of the components and thoroughly shaken the jar, allow it to stand for a minimum of 15 minutes, preferably 30 minutes to 1 hour. If the mix is incompatible, try again, this time adding a proportionate amount of a compatibility agent - if you have not done so already in Step 4.

Use Methods 2 and 3 to test for compatibility when 2 or more pesticides are mixed with a liquid fertilizer. If you are mixing 2 pesticides with a fertilizer, begin with the W-A-L-E Method and mix the pesticides together first. Once the pesticides are determined to be compatible, begin Method 2 by pouring 1 pint of the liquid fertilizer into each of the quart jars. Add the adjuvant to only 1 of the quart jars as directed and then proceed by adding the proportionate amount of pesticide to each jar. Once you have added the pesticide, invert the jar several times. Do not vigorously shake the jar as recommended in the W-A-L-E Method. Allow the jar to stand for 1 hour and visually inspect the jar for signs of incompatibility. If you notice any physical incompatibility, you may repeat this test using more adjuvant as directed in Step 6.

Use Method 3 as a last resort. Add the adjuvant to the pesticide prior to mixing with the fertilizer rather than adding it to the fertilizer. Continue with Steps 4, 5 and 6 in Method 2.

What next? - Agitation. After mixing, keep the tank agitated. Without agitation, even compatible mixtures may settle out, resulting in poor performance. For example, wettable powders will settle, which does not indicate true incompatibility. They will return to suspension with agitation.

- Test your mix. Before you use any mixes that pass the tests for compatibility, it is imperative to test them on a designated area. It's possible that some otherwise invisible incompatibility may result either in phytotoxicity or ineffectiveness. Find a test area and apply the mix at the rate specified. Observe the test plot for several days. If the mix is not harmful to treated plants and is effective on the target species, then you have a compatible mix.

- Mix only what you will use in one day. Left overnight, compatible mixes may form precipitates and stratify. You will achieve the best results by mixing only what you can immediately spray.

Many combination products are currently on the market. These include fertilizer, herbicide, fungicide and insecticide mixes. See if your needs can be met with a commercially available product. You may not need to mix at all. Of course, many instances may require custom mixes to achieve desired results; following proper procedures will help ensure success.

1 Add diluent, usually water.

2 Add Wettable powders and Water-dispersible granules.

3 Agitate the mix thoroughly.

4 Add Liquids, surfactants, and flowables.

5 Add Emulsifiable concentrates.

6 Shake the jar vigorously. Feel the sides of the jar for heat - if heat is produced by the reaction, the chemicals are changing form, and the mix should be deemed incompatible. Look for clumps, scum or other solids to form - if so, do not use this mix.

1 Pour 1 pint of liquid fertilizer into each of two, 1 quart jars.

2 Add 1/4 teaspoon of adjuvant to 1 jar only.

3 Pour the proportionate amount of pesticide in each jar. If more than 1 pesticide is used, follow the W-A-L-E sequence and mix them together before adding them to the fertilizer.

4 Invert, don't shake, the jars several times to mix. Let the jars stand for 1 hour.

5 Inspect mixes for lumps, gels, irregular cloudiness, layering, flakes, or other solid material. Feel the sides of the jar for heat.

6 If the chemicals do not mix, repeat the test using 3/8 of a teaspoon of adjuvant. If, after the second test, the chemicals still do not mix, consider them incompatible.

1 Pour 1 pint of liquid fertilizer into a quart jar.

2 Prepare a premix of adjuvant and pesticide and immediately pour into the jar with the fertilizer.

3 See steps 4, 5 and 6 in METHOD 2.

A wide variety of new utility vehicle offerings and improvements help turf managers get the job done.

While water and fertilizer make the grass grow, utility vehicles make the work flow on golf courses and large landscape sites. From the first time a golf course superintendent used a dump truck to transport workers to their various assignments throughout the course, utility vehicles have taken on ever-expanding roles in turf maintenance. Whether it's transporting people, hauling cargo, pulling a trailer or powering a specialized tool or attachment, turf utility vehicles are the ace up a turf manager's sleeve.

Major turf equipment manufacturers like John Deere and Toro have focused on utility vehicles over the past decade as a new and growing market, and have introduced many new models and design innovations. At the same time, long-term vehicle manufacturers like Cushman, Club Car and E-Z-GO have refined and improved their product lines. Productivity, durability, operator comfort and quiet operation have driven many of the design improvements.

"We see the vehicle industry growing steadily with an increased need for productivity," says Neil Borenstein, marketing manager for vehicles for the Toro Company, Bloomington, Minn. "New product offerings are designed to better fit the specific needs of golf course superintendents and turf managers."

The current turf utility-vehicle market can be loosely divided into heavy duty, mid-duty and light duty (runabout) vehicles; but those categories are blurred somewhat by "crossover" models that may fit more than one niche. Heavy duty models like the Cushman Turf Truckster, Toro Workman and John Deere ProGator lines are the largest and carry the heaviest loads (up to 2,850 pounds total payload), but also are engineered to offer the most versatility. All will accept a variety of the usual attachments like dump beds, topdressers and sprayers, while some also can be equipped with specialized attachments like scissor lifts. These units often have the capability to power air compressors, generators, power washers or hydraulic power tools to become mobile work centers.

Safety concerns with early 3-wheel vehicle configurations on undulating terrain (particularly with heavy loads or high center-of-gravity attachments) have led to a trend toward 4-wheel platforms and the improvement of 4-wheel steering systems. Many of the 4-wheel turf trucks now offer 3-wheel maneuverability within a safe and stable four-wheel configuration.

Creature comforts such as contoured bucket seats with hip restraints, power steering, larger storage areas, cup and radio holders and 12-volt power outlets for radios and cell phones are also being integrated into new models. The use of dent- and corrosion-resistant plastic for front cowling and even dump beds is another major trend, with the added benefits of lighter weight and lower noise.

The venerable Cushman Turf Truckster line received a major overhaul two years ago, with new heavy duty models equipped with a choice of next-generation Suzuki 32- or 34-hp liquid-cooled gas or 22-hp Perkins diesel engines. Payloads have been increased up to 2,850 pounds (including 200 pounds each for the operator, passenger and dump box). The traditional left-hand gearshift manual transmission was updated to a right-hand dash-mounted shifter for the 4-speed, dual-range manual transmission. A new 3-speed automatic transmission was also offered for the first time in a heavy-duty turf vehicle. For Turf Trucksters equipped with the 34-hp Suzuki gas or Perkins diesel engines, power to the optional rear PTO has been increased to 15 hp for higher-horsepower attachments.

The Toro Company redefined the heavy-duty utility-vehicle market back in 1993 with the introduction of the Toro Workman series of multi-function work vehicles. Designed on a "cab forward" platform with mid-mounted engine, they offered 70-degree steering for 3-wheel maneuverability with 4-wheel stability, a 2,600-pound total payload, and a novel 1/3 to 2/3 split cargo or attachment configuration. Engines include air- and liquid-cooled gasoline and diesel options. A four-wheel drive version is also available for added traction in wet, hilly or slippery areas. Workman vehicles also offer optional mid- and rear PTOs, supervisor's third-gear lockout to limit top ground speed and a built-in roll over protective structure.

John Deere followed suit in the heavy-duty vehicle market with their ProGator introduction in 1999. With a cab-forward configuration similar to the Toro Workman, the ProGator 2020 has a 26-hp Yanmar liquid-cooled gasoline powerplant, while the model 2030 has a 23.5-hp liquid-cooled Yanmar diesel. Optional on-demand 4-wheel drive is available. The five-speed manual transmission enables a 19 mph ground speed, although the standard fifth-gear lockout allows the grounds manager to limit the top speed to 15 mph via a separate key.

The ProGator has a 2,650-pound total payload, and incorporates a certified ROPS and seat belts for safety. A 3-pin quick-tach system enables easy changeover from cargo box to a sprayer, spreader or topdresser attachment. Hydraulic lift of the dump box is standard.

Mid-duty vehicles offer a broad spectrum of capabilities Mid-duty vehicles have higher-horsepower engines, greater payload (1,000 to 1,500 pounds) and beefier suspensions than the light-duty runabouts. The Kawasaki Mule line broke new ground in the mid-duty market back in the late 1980s, with a get-up-and-go vehicle that offered new levels of power, traction and off-road performance. Using liquid-cooled motorcycle engines and ATV-type tires and suspensions, Kawasaki Mules quickly became a favorite for new golf course construction. But higher noise levels and top speeds over 20 mph became an issue for some turf managers for day-to-day use, so additional models with turf tires, slower top speeds and quieter operation have been added.

Perhaps the long-term standard of reliability by which the mid-duty category is judged is the Club Car Carryall II, which is available in both gas and 48-volt electric versions. It offers a 1,200-pound total payload. Designed with traditional golf car features like pedal start and smooth tires, the Carryall line also makes extensive use of rust-proof aluminum framing and plastic body panels in a compact configuration. The Carryall II Plus has an 11-hp OHV gasoline engine and a top speed of 18 mph, while the new Carryall Turf II offers many standard features requested specifically by turf managers. The Turf II XRT, designed for aggressive rough-terrain use such as golf course construction, features knobby tires, 4-wheel brakes, higher ground clearance and an independent front suspension.

John Deere's Gator line of mid-duty vehicles was introduced in the early `90s and included both 4x2 (four wheels, 2-wheel drive) and 6x4 (six wheels, 4-wheel drive) configurations. All have continuously variable (torque-converter, or snowmobile-type) transmissions for clutch-free operation.

The Gator line has since been expanded with several variations, including a 4x2 Turf Gator with foot pedal start and an iso-mounted engine for quieter operation. The Trail Gator has both 4x2 and 6x4 versions in a sportier package with olive drab color for primarily recreational use. A diesel Trail Gator was introduced in 2000. Other niche products in the Gator line include the WorkSite Gator (in contractor yellow, sold through their skid-steer/loader dealers) and the Military Gator, a diesel unit that is air-drop and sling-load certified for helicopter drops and is sold only to the military through GSA contract.

A 48-volt E-Gator offers quiet operation with zero emissions for golf course use while also appealing to environmentally-conscious individuals, according to Collis Jones, product marketing manager for the John Deere Vehicle Group. "We see the golf course market moving more toward the zero emissions/electric product type than traditional combustion engines," he says. "While the mid-duty vehicle market has been growing at about 10 percent per year since 1995, we see electric vehicles growing at 15 to 20 percent per year." Deere opened a new $40 million vehicle plant in Williamsburg, Va., this year.

Ron Skenes, communications manager at E-Z-GO Textron, Augusta, Ga., disagrees about the trend toward electric vehicles. "Our WorkHorse utility vehicles are available in gas and electric versions, with the gasoline units having the largest market share. We see that continuing, primarily because turf managers like to run these vehicles all day long and not worry about a charge. Our electric vehicles are popular with university campuses, hospitals and for other use around buildings."

The top end of the E-Z-GO WorkHorse lineup, the models 1000E and 1200G, fall into the mid-duty range with total vehicle capacities of 1,000 and 1,200 pounds, respectively. The 800G and 800E models fall into the light duty runabout category with their 800-pound payloads. E-Z-GO's electric models use 36-volt power systems, while the gas-powered units use 9- or 12-hp Fuji twin-cylinder gasoline engines.

E-Z-GO WorkHorse models are designed as "truly multi-purpose vehicles that can be run and run with minimal maintenance," according to Skenes. "Even something simple like our standard bedliner contributes to long-term durability." The E-Z-GO WorkHorse 1200G is also co-branded with an orange paint scheme as the Jacobsen 1110 Hauler.

Toro introduced a new line of Workman mid-duty vehicles in 1999 and 2000. The Workman 1100 has a 12-hp Kohler engine and 1,250-pound payload, while the model 2100 has a 16-hp Vanguard engine and 1,650-pound total capacity. Both feature the innovative "active in-frame suspension" that allows the vehicle chassis to twist and flex over undulations, keeping all four wheels on the ground at all times. The Workman 110 and 2100 utilize the same 70-degree steering system as the Workman 3000 and 4000 series for tight maneuverability.

Neil Borenstein of Toro says the recent Workman mid-duty introductions were designed to be "mid-duty vehicles at light-duty prices". Both have dent- and corrosion-resistant plastic hoods and cargo boxes.

"Corrosion is a big problem for many golf courses, particularly along the coasts," says Borenstein.

Pug Power's Back Forty Series, introduced last year, was originally designed with farmers in mind. However, it has become popular with grounds professionals because it can carry a crew.

"It's really designed for anyone who works the ground," says Dusty James, Pug Power advertising manager. "The Stow-away seat gives the Back Forty a four to five passenger capability - a popular feature with grounds managers who need to carry crews."

Pug Power's Back Forty Series consists of mid-duty vehicles offered in 4x2 and 6x4 versions. The F570 6x4 has a 1,250-pound payload capacity, while the 4x2 offers an 1,100-pound payload capacity. Both are powered by Vanguard air-cooled gas engines and designed to travel at a top speed of 18 to 19 mph, but their governors can dictate slower speeds.

Light-duty models have new power trains, features Most light-duty utility vehicles can trace their lineage back to golf car origins, but now have beefier chassis and suspensions and improved power trains at affordable prices. The Yamaha G-11 has a 301-cc, 10-hp, 4-stroke, single-cylinder Yamaha gas engine, continuously variable transmission with pedal start, tubular steel frame and thermoplastic body panels. A tilting, extruded aluminum cargo bed with 500-pound capacity is standard.

Club Car's Carryall I is available in both gas and 48-volt electric versions, and has a rated capacity of 800 pounds. Typical Carryall features such as all-aluminum frame, chassis and cargo box, and polymer body panels are standard.

Both mid- and light-duty vehicles often find additional uses as golf ball pickers, beverage carts, security vehicles or personnel transporters.

Regardless of the intended or new-found use, utility vehicles are available in a wide variety of sizes, configurations and capabilities to assist the turf manager in getting his work done.

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