Offering diversified with new crop input solution

Environmental management company I-CAT will soon launch agricultural and forestry input solution Cyflo, as part of its product offering, targeting existing and potential clients, says I-CAT Planting Business Unit head Rachelle Botha.

The product was developed by diagnostic agronomist Charl Marais and his team and complements I-CAT’s vision of offering the market innovative environmental solutions that “don’t cost the earth”.

Since farmers depend on a return on investment, together with an expectation of best results, the efficacy and related cost of agricultural inputs are a top priority in the crop production environment, Botha tells Engineering News.

Made from organic ingredients, Cyflo, which has an “extremely low environmental footprint”, is a carrier molecule. Its main active ingredient is a liposome fatty acid that effects cellular permeability of agricultural remedies and fertilisers, and significantly improves their efficacy.

Liposome technologies have been around since the early 1960s; however, researchers have mainly focused on targeting the specific delivery of medicines to treat an array of human ailments, highlights Botha.

“While medicine had a head start, commercial agriculture needed a robust delivery mechanism certain to overcome permeability barriers at cellular level. Many such mechanisms existed at the time and are still in existence, mainly as chelating agents, which comprise chemical compounds in which a substance is joined to a metal atom by two or more bonds.”

Therefore, most foliar-applied remedies, which involve applying these directly to the leaves of a plant, have a poor to moderate chance of resulting in ‘best effect’, relating to the uptake and distribution of compounds throughout the plant.

However, growers using Cyflo typically report an above-moderate ‘best effect’ response by the target plants, notes Botha.

When using Cyflo, the uptake and distribution of the ‘active ingredient’ into the individual cells of the target plant is said to be rapid, with delivery into the cytoplasm completed in two to three days.

“Therefore, supported by its bio-stimulant properties and relative low cost per hectare, Cyflo is an attractive supplement to many foliar-applied chemicals,” states Botha.

In addition, Cyflo assists in stimulating plant hormone production, which is critical at the prevailing physiological plant stage; inducing natural stress relief, stimulating the plant to produce more tocopherols and tocotrienols when exposed to high temperatures, moisture and light stress; and in repairing cells. The product also increases flowering, accelerates the ripening of fruit and improves the shelf life of fruit.

Developmental Case

The product was developed to overcome the limitations associated with chelates and to design a vesicle with more than simply “carrier capacity”, Botha tells Engineering News.

“The objectives were multiple. The integrity of the cuticle was not to be compromised, while Cyflo’s design had to overcome cell-membrane permeability resistance. Movement in the plant also had to be other than by the xylem and phloem pathways, while distribution had to be completed in the shortest period, within three to four days, post application. Finally, the composition of the liposome had to have bio-stimulant ability.”

The molecule converts to a monolayer ring structure or liposome once in contact with water soluble (hydrophilic) chemicals and organic compounds, transferring these across cell membranes by means of endocytic pathways.

Cyflo does this by mimicking the enzymatic system and cellular membrane transport system of the plant, which allows for rapid uptake and an “unequalled” distribution rate in the plant, says  I-CAT director Winston Warries.

However, as the product acts as a penetrant, it must preferably not be used in conjunction with other noncompatible or contrasting penetrants, as this may degrade the product and, consequently, impact on its ability to encapsulate spray mixture components.

“Spray solutions must also be applied on the day of preparation and not stored overnight prior to application,” comments Warries.

The biggest challenge during development has been ensuring the stability of the molecule under field conditions.

“The quality of the product is impeded when it is exposed to high temperatures – placing it in direct sunlight or in the warm cab of a truck for extended periods, or failing to replace the lid soonest after opening – owing to the product’s predominantly organic composition.”

Therefore, good storage and handling protocols need to be applied to retain effectiveness.

Meanwhile, the manufacturing process capacity is more than adequate to meet current and future demand.

Shipping and harbour-related delays regarding imported raw materials, as well as Covid-19, may present challenges that influence supply; however, I-CAT does have contingency plans in place, says Botha.

“Cyflo complements I-CAT’s product offering, focusing on providing cost-effective and environment-friendly solutions to the market with proven technological and scientific benefits to the end-user, Botha concludes.