Seven Critical Agrochemical Formulation Challenges (And How We’re Solving Them)

To feed the world of tomorrow, agrochemical companies need new innovations today. We’re helping them solve their most critical formulation challenges so they can rise to the opportunities ahead.


Battelle is working with our formulation clients and partners to develop crop protection products, fertilizers and growth agents that are more sustainable, targeted, stable, usable or effective. New formulations are urgently needed to better meet the needs of farmers around the globe while protecting human health and the environment. Here are seven of the biggest challenges we see in the industry today and how we’re helping our clients solve them.


Challenge 1: Multi-Active Ingredient Formulations

Multi-active formulations reduce the number of individual applications required, making crop protection easier and more cost-effective for farmers. However, combining multiple active ingredients in one formulation vastly increases the complexity of formulation. Different active ingredients may have different sensitivities to moisture or pH requirements. Some active ingredients can interact adversely with each other (or with impurities found in some actives), which may cause chemical degradation. We’re solving these problems using a variety of methods, including encapsulation, Oil Dispersions (OD) and Water Dispersible Granules (WG).

Challenge 2: Moving to Oil-Dispersions

Many crop protection ingredients, such as sulfonylurea herbicides, are moisture sensitive. Moving to Oil Dispersion (OD) formulations helps to make them more stable. ODs can provide additional advantages, too—such as serving as adjuvants to improve biological efficacy. However, moving to OD formulations is not without challenges. Our chemists are working to translate existing water-based formulations into OD formulations to improve stability and enable co-formulation with other actives.

Challenge 3: Replacing Microplastics in Capsule Suspension (CS) & Flowable Seed Treatment (FS) Formulations 

Encapsulation enables new possibilities for agrochemicals, allowing companies to combine incompatible ingredients, improve shelf stability or create products that are activated by specific environmental triggers. Many of the existing encapsulation technologies depend on synthetic polymers, which stay in the environment as microplastics. Some seed treatment stickers have also been classified as microplastics. Proposed regulations in the EU and elsewhere banning microplastics will impact these formulations. Battelle is helping agrochemical companies get ahead of the game and improve the sustainability of their encapsulated and seed treatment products by moving to bio-based polymers that safely degrade in the environment.

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Challenge 4: Improving Stability for Microbial Formulation

Microbial formulations using live microbes have shown tremendous promise for controlling insects and fungi. They are also used as biostimulants to improve plant growth—for example, by improving nutrient take-up. These emerging microbial treatments have the potential to complement the use of conventional pesticides and improve sustainability in agriculture. However, many microbial formulations have limited shelf life, remaining viable for only weeks to a few months even in highly controlled cold storage conditions. For widespread global use, there is a need for formulations that are stable for one to two years under a range of temperature and humidity conditions. At Battelle, we have microbiologists and formulation chemists working side-by-side to create long-lasting, resilient microbial formulations for both liquid application and seed treatment.

Challenge 5: Localizing Agrochemical Formulations 

Many agrochemical formulations created for one part of the world may not be optimized for sale and use in other parts of the world. Localization strategies can help companies address customer preferences or enable in-country manufacturing with locally sourced and approved ingredients. Changes to a formulation may also be needed to optimize performance for different climate conditions and soil chemistry or ensure that it will be effective for the specific crop pests, weeds and pathogens found in the region. When making these changes, companies need to make sure that the new formulation is still equally safe and effective and meets all regulatory requirements for the markets in which it will be sold. Our team can help agrochemical companies with formulation changes and testing so they can move into new markets with confidence.

Challenge 6: Formulating for Drone Application and Precision Agriculture

Precision agriculture is increasingly used to reduce dosage requirements, control costs and minimize unintended environmental impacts from agrochemicals. One emerging method uses drones for precision application of crop protection or growth agents. Drones are much more targeted than traditional crop dusters, reducing drift and enabling highly precise application. To accommodate the smaller payload capacity of agricultural drones, super-concentrated formulations are needed. High-concentration formulations typically also have a high viscosity to keep product from sedimenting—but high viscosity makes it difficult to atomize the product for aerial dispersion. We’re working to create high-load, low-viscosity formulations that are stable and suitable for drone dispersion, seed treatment and other applications.

Challenge 7: Utilizing Plant Extracts

Many plant extracts are valuable as biostimulants or provide crop protection benefits. Extracts sourced from seaweed or other widely available plants are often more sustainable than synthetic alternatives. But plant extracts are made up of hundreds of individual components. Formulation chemists need to understand which ones provide the benefit so they can develop formulations with consistent performance and the right concentrations of active molecules. Our formulation team can characterize plant extracts, identify and test molecules with desirable effects, and develop safe, stable and effective plant-based formulations.

Preparing for the Future of Agrochemical Formulation

Battelle is working with our formulation clients and partners to solve all of these challenges and more. We have the expertise and experience to anticipate evolving consumer needs and regulatory requirements and find innovative solutions that will meet the needs of the agricultural community in the years and decades to come.

Contact us to talk to a Battelle agrochemical formulation expert.

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June 02, 2022
Battelle Insider
Estimated Read Time
4 Mins

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