The use of additives in agricultural practice

In January 2017 the German „Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Security“ (BMEL) published a current list with approved additives in Germany. With more than 300 approved additives the range for the farmer is extensive1, but do farmers use additives? And if so, in which form? Kleffmann Group surveyed more than 3.200 farmers with regard to their use of additives on cereals and sugar beets.

What are additives?  

Additives are products which are used in tank mix with one or more crop protection products. The main justification of additives is to improve the efficacy of the mixing partners.  

Additives are divided into three main groups: 

  • The “wetting agents“ reduce the surface tension  of spray drops. With the help of these additives, this allows wider distribution of the spray solution over the targeted surface thereby increasing contact with the target. 
  • The second group are the “bonding agents“. They help to improve the adherence of the  crop protection product to the plant. With this group, the dangers of vaporization, evaporation or UV degradation should be reduced.   
  • The third group are the “penetration substances”. They help to increase the penetration of crop protection products into the plant tissue by bipolar and nonionic molecule structures. Which group farmers choose is dependent on the crop culture, pest pressure, growth stage as well as on external factors e.g. the weather conditions.2

Data Collection 
In 2016, Kleffmann Group questioned more than 2,400 cereal farmers and around 800 sugar beet growers with regard to their usage of additives. Where farmers used additives, they were asked which additive they combined with which product (e.g. insecticides, herbicides etc.) in the tank mix.

1. Application of additives

Farmers surveyed n=3222, cereals=2422, sugar beets n=800

Additive use is very popular in sugar beet 
14% of the surveyed farmers made conscious use of additives in the last year and the proportion of sugar beet growers is significantly higher than that of cereal farmers. Over all, just 6% of farmers who grow cereals used additives in comparison to 39% of sugar beet growers who used additives. [Fig. 1] 

2. Application of additives according to the region

Farmers surveyed: n=3222

In addition to the differences in the crop cultures Kleffmann Group also identified a regional effect. [Fig. 2] The popularity of additives is highest in „Niedersachsen“ (a region in Western Germany). In this region, more than one fifth of the surveyed farmers used additives. In „Mecklenburg-Vorpommern“ (a region in the North-East of Germany), „Rheinland-Pfalz“ (Western Germany) and in „Hessen“ (Central Germany) additives are also used more often on average.

3. Choice of additive

Farmers surveyed  in total n=460, cereals n=147, sugar beets n=313. Multiple answers possible.

Wetting agents and bonding agents are most popular 

The most widely used additives for farmers are the wetting and bonding agents. When we look at the results, irrespective of crop culture, wetting agents are the most popular ones with 54% of farmers in the sample using them. [Fig. 3] 
If we look at Cereals specifically, wetting agents represent 65% of additive use, bonding agents are used by 29% whereas  penetration substances are chosen by 13%. In Sugar beet it’s bonding agents which are most popular 52%. 49% of wetting agents are used to improve the effect of crop protection products, and penetration substances are used with 10%.

4. Mix partners

Farmers surveyed in total n=460, cereals n=147, sugar beets n=313. Multiple answers possible.

Additives are mainly associated in tank mix with herbicides 

Additives are used up to 87% in tank mixes with herbicides [Fig. 4] but only 23% of additives are used to optimize the effect of fungicides. Where sugar beet is grown, there is a higher proportion of herbicide use and that in term magnifies the significance of additive use; 96% of additive use in sugar beet with this herbicide sector. A higher degree of normal tank-mixing occurs in cereals and this reflects in the more homogenously additive use across all segments. 69% use additives in combination with herbicides, 51% in combination with fungicides and 20% in combination with insecticides. 


In 2017 farmers are looking at a wide range of additives but the general application of these among the participants is very low (14%). However, there are big differences visible in the region and crop culture. In sugar beets additives are applied more often than in cereals – this is partly due to the intensity of herbicide applications where additives are associated. The combination with a herbicide is the preferred option in general but in cereals the combination with a fungicide or insecticide is also very common. 


1 Bundesamt für Verbraucherschutz und Lebensmittelsicherheit, “Liste der Zusatzstoffe”, , 08.02.2017.

2 Bundesamt für Verbraucherschutz und Lebensmittelsicherheit, “Zusatzstoffe gemäß § 42 Pflanzenschutzgesetz”, , 08.02.2017.