July 1996 - Volume III, Issue 7

Spreader & Stickers for Lawn Applications
- When and Why -

David M. Kopec, Extenstion Turfgrass Specialist

When a homeowner is applying a plant protectant agent to the lawn, one question often comes up. "What's a spreader sticker and do I need one?"

Most topical applications of products applied to home lawns are in the following categories.

1. Fertilizers
2. Herbicides
3. Weed and feed (combinations of both above)
4. Insecticides
5. Fungicides

There are many types of "spreader stickers", which are actually one type of surfactant (surface active agent). For the home lawn enthusiast, a "spreader sticker" is almost always a non-ionic general purpose surfactant (wetting agent). These are used when the product used is absorbed through leaf tissue (foliar absorption).

Practical applications include the use of the non-ionic surfactants for post emergence weed control. When the active ingredient must be taken up by the leaves of the weed directly, a uniform application spread out evenly on the weed leaves affords the best success when a wetting agent is used. Some products already contain a wetting agent in them. An example is Daconate, which is MSMA, plus a surfactant. A wetting agent is not usually needed when applying a pre-emerge herbicide.

Liquid fertilizer (hose on sprayers) are popular among home lawn care takers. A wetting agent is not practically used here although some think it's important.

Weed and feed products are usually pre-emergence (some post emergence) herbicides impregnated onto a granular fertilizer. Obviously, in this situation a wetting agent would be of minimal value.

Insecticides applied to lawns and landscape plants may benefit from the use of a wetting agent. Control of surface feeding insects (chinch bugs, aphids, cutworms, sod web worms) may benefit by use of a wetting agent. Insecticides applied for control of underground white grubs would not usually benefit from a wetting agent "spreader sticker."

Most fungicides for lawns benefit from wetting agents/spreader stickers, primarily those which work by contact type activity. These suppress the fungus by touching the disease organism directly on the leaf/stem surface.

When "shopping" for a surfactant, read the directions carefully. Follow the label rate for the amount of product needed per gallon of spray solution. Increased amounts over the label rate may increase activity of the plant protectant product, but may also burn the desirable lawn or shrub. Usually, concentrates are very low, from 0.10 to 0.25%. The following table provides easy conversion amounts.

Amount of Surfactant Product Recommended
Amount of Spray Volume Mixed 0.10% .25% 0.50%
1 Quart 1cc 3cc 5cc
2 Quarts 2cc 5cc 10cc
1 Gallon 4cc 9cc 19cc
2 Gallons 8cc 18cc 38cc
3 Gallons 11cc 28cc 57cc

29cc equals one liquid ounce
1 tablespoon = 15cc
2 tablespoons = 1 ounce
1 teaspoon = 5cc
6 teaspoons = 1 ounce

Products mentioned are for example use only. No endorsements are implied, nor are similar products excluded for any purpose. Always read the label.

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