Plant-Based Oils As Economical And Ecological Alternatives To Mineral Oils In Aerial Spraying Of Banana

The use of mineral oil adjuvants with aerially applied fungicides for the control of Black Sigatoka is a well-established practice in banana plantations around the world. Typically, the dose will be between 3 and 7 litres per hectare depending on the conditions and aggressiveness of the disease.  These oils are often described as being paraffinic or mineral oils and are characterised by an unsulfonated residue (USR) of 95–100 indicating the near or total absence of aromatic structures, which are inactive and known to be phytotoxic.

These oils have been a useful tool in the fight to control Black Sigatoka for several decades, however they are subject to several potential drawbacks.

  1.  They cannot be used with chlorothalonil which is a common contact fungicide used in Sigatoka control.
  2.  A separate added emulsifier is necessary to render the fungicide mixture suitable for spraying.
  3.  Although they are supposedly not phytotoxic, there have been reports in the Philippines of phytotoxicity particularly when the dose of Paraffinic Oil is high.
  4.  Furthermore, the price and availability of these oils is very volatile since they are derived from fossil fuels, and which are subject to geopolitical disturbances.

With a target of net-zero carbon emissions becoming more and more a feature of all businesses, the use of any derivative from fossil fuels will become less favourable in the future, particularly in the agriculture sector.

A new approach to this issue in the Philippines has been developed by AgroAdvanced Philippines with the introduction and commercialisation of Saponit Aerial Spray Adjuvant from Arvensis Agro in Spain. Derived from plant sources, Saponit is characterised by features such as a much lower dose per hectare, no requirement for an additional emulsifier, Certified Organic and most importantly, a significantly lower cost per hectare than mineral oils.

Saponit is compatible with the majority of contact and systemic fungicides used in Sigatoka control.

Extensive testing under local Philippine conditions has consistently shown that at the right dose (typically 0.3-0.5 litres per hectare), Saponit delivers statistically comparable results for the control of Black Sigatoka to the standard control of using mineral oil adjuvants. For some parameters the performance has been shown to be superior to that with mineral oils.

Given that the performance has been repeatedly shown to be equal or superior to that with mineral oils, what are the other benefits of using plant based oils in Sigatoka Control?

  1.  Depending on doses and costs, the use of Saponit should normally deliver oil savings of 10-20% on a per hectare basis.
  2.  The mixing time of inputs for aerial spraying is shortened, thereby releasing the aeroplanes for faster turnaround and more efficient use. This factor will also lead to cost savings.
  3.  Handling and logistics operations are greatly simplified with no need for storage tanks holding large volumes of mineral oil.
  4.  The “green life” of the banana leaves is improved.

Saponit is registered in the Philippines for aerial spray and has been approved for commercial use in some banana plantations.

Agroadvanced International Philippines Inc. will continue to develop the market for Saponit to provide significant financial and logistical benefits to the Philippine banana industry.