(19)
(11)EP 2 203 048 B1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT SPECIFICATION

(45)Mention of the grant of the patent:
11.04.2018 Bulletin 2018/15

(21)Application number: 08834827.1

(22)Date of filing:  03.10.2008
(51)Int. Cl.: 
A01N 25/12  (2006.01)
A01N 39/04  (2006.01)
C05G 3/02  (2006.01)
A01N 25/26  (2006.01)
A01P 13/02  (2006.01)
(86)International application number:
PCT/US2008/078768
(87)International publication number:
WO 2009/046312 (09.04.2009 Gazette  2009/15)

(54)

METHODS FOR PREPARING GRANULAR WEED CONTROL PRODUCTS HAVING IMPROVED DISTRIBUTION OF AGRICULTURALLY ACTIVE INGREDIENTS COATED THEREON

VERFAHREN ZUR HERSTELLUNG VON GRANULATFÖRMIGEN UNKRAUTBEKÄMPFUNGSMITTELN MIT EINER VERBESSERTEN VERTEILUNG VON AGRARWIRKSTOFFEN, MIT DENEN DAS GRANULAT BESCHICHTET IST

PROCÉDÉS DE PRÉPARATION DE PRODUITS DE LUTTE CONTRE LES MAUVAISES HERBES EN GRANULÉS ENROBÉS D'INGRÉDIENTS, ACTIFS D'UN POINT DE VUE AGRICOLE, MIEUX RÉPARTIS


(84)Designated Contracting States:
AT BE BG CH CY CZ DE DK EE ES FI FR GB GR HR HU IE IS IT LI LT LU LV MC MT NL NO PL PT RO SE SI SK TR

(30)Priority: 04.10.2007 US 906894

(43)Date of publication of application:
07.07.2010 Bulletin 2010/27

(73)Proprietor: OMS Investments, Inc.
Los Angeles, CA 90067-6228 (US)

(72)Inventors:
  • THOMPSON, Harold, E.
    Powell, OH 43065 (US)
  • BAKER, Robert D.
    Westerville, OH 43081 (US)

(74)Representative: Beyer, Andreas 
Patentanwälte Bressel und Partner mbB Potsdamer Platz 10
10785 Berlin
10785 Berlin (DE)


(56)References cited: : 
US-A- 3 991 225
US-A- 5 354 742
US-A1- 2003 211 943
US-B1- 6 180 565
US-B1- 6 607 146
US-A- 4 117 801
US-A- 5 680 993
US-A1- 2007 021 305
US-B1- 6 274 570
US-B2- 6 825 151
  
      
    Note: Within nine months from the publication of the mention of the grant of the European patent, any person may give notice to the European Patent Office of opposition to the European patent granted. Notice of opposition shall be filed in a written reasoned statement. It shall not be deemed to have been filed until the opposition fee has been paid. (Art. 99(1) European Patent Convention).


    Description

    BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION


    1. Field of the Invention



    [0001] The present invention relates generally to methods for preparing granular weed control products and, more particularly, to methods for improving the distribution of agriculturally active ingredients on such granular products.

    2. Description of Related Art



    [0002] Granular weed control products have been known in the consumer lawn industry which utilize systemic herbicides such as 2,4-D and MCPP-p for foliar application to broadleaf post-emergent weeds such as dandelions for purposes of killing the weeds. The active ingredients used in preparing these products are generally applied to inert carriers or fertilizer granules as a solid powder or a liquid solution. The level of active ingredient (Al) applied to the granular material is generally based on a specific total weight percentage of the entire product formulation. Normally, the resulting granular materials are then applied to a treated weed by using a spreader such as a broadcast spreader to spread the granules on the surface of the weed in a manner such that the individual granules or particles adhere to moist foliage in order to solublize the active ingredient (Al), thus allowing it to enter the weed cells and kill the plant.

    [0003] When a homogeneous sample of a typical weed control product is analyzed for active ingredient (Al) content the overall weight percentage obtainable is the key parameter of focus. However, the distribution of the active ingredient (Al) on the surface of the granules is generally not evaluated or specifically controlled.

    [0004] As a result of this lack of distribution control, some granules have active ingredient (Al) coatings with thicknesses and/or concentrations greater than can be solubilized by available moisture which, in most cases, comprises morning dew. The literature suggests that a moderate morning dew, during the spring time can deposit on average 30 mg/cm2 of water, with a thickness of about 0.3 mm. This factor is generally not taken into consideration when determining how Al is applied to the fertilizer and inert carrier surface.

    [0005] However, since weeds transport the available active ingredient (Al) into their cell structure on the basis of a concentration gradient, the amount of active ingredient (Al) that can be solubilized will be transported into the weed. To the contrary, if a granular or particulate product has a thick coating of active ingredient (Al) and there is insufficient moisture available to dissolve or solubilize the excess active ingredient, that excess amount of active ingredient will not be transported into the weed and will be essentially lost for purposes of treating the plant.

    [0006] Such active ingredient loss can lead to inconsistent and generally lower weed control and inefficient utilization of active ingredients. Thus, in view of the problems encountered in controlling the distribution of active ingredient on the granular surfaces, many prior weed control formulations have included significantly greater concentrations of active ingredient than would be necessary if processes had been available for controlling the distribution of active ingredient on the granular surface.

    [0007] Agricultural formulations can be applied to plants in the form of solids, solutions, emulsions, suspensions, dispersions and the like, and are used in agriculture for applying agriculturally active chemicals to plants, soil, insects and the like. Among typical agricultural chemicals are pesticides such as herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, growth regulators and the like. Other typical agricultural chemicals include plant nutrients and micronutrients.

    [0008] In particular, agricultural formulations containing herbicides either as solid powders or liquid solutions can be applied to granular material and the herbicides coated on the granules to be applied to weed foliage to control the weed plants. Normally, the coated granules are applied either in a liquid spray application or in a granular solid application to moist weed foliage using a spreader such as a broadcast spreader, with the individual granules desirably adhering to the moist foliage to solubilize the active herbicidal ingredient, allowing the active ingredient to enter the weed cells and to kill the plant.

    [0009] Exemplary of relevant prior art in this field is U.S. Patent 5,006,158 which discloses that diverse active herbicidal compounds or salts disclosed therein can be formulated as granules of relatively large particle size, as wettable powders, as emulsifiable concentrates, as powdery dusts, as flowables, as solutions or as any of several other known types of formulations, depending upon the desired mode of application. The formulations containing the actives are disclosed to contain as little as about 0.5% to as much as about 95% or more by weight of active ingredient. A herbicidally effective amount of the actives is disclosed as depending upon the nature of the seeds or plants to be controlled and the rate of application varies from about 0.01 to approximately 10 pounds per acre, preferably from about 0.02 to about 4 pounds per acre.

    [0010] US 2003/211943 A1 discloses a concentrated, liquid herbicidal composition containing a low volatile ester of a first herbicide, a solid second herbicide comprising fluroxypyr in the form of a free acid and/or a solid ester, and an aprotic solvent, and a granular herbicide containing a solid substrate having the concentrated, liquid herbicidal composition applied to the substrate.

    [0011] Granular formulations wherein the actives are carried on relatively coarse particles as disclosed in U.S. Patent 5,006,158 are usually applied without dilution to the area in which suppression of vegetation is desired. Typical carriers for such granular formulations as described in U.S. Patent 5,006,158 include sand, fuller's earth, attapulgite clay, bentonite clays, montmorillonite clay, vermiculite, perlite and other organic or inorganic materials which absorb or which may be coated with the toxicant. These granular formulations are normally prepared to contain about 0.1 % to about 25 % of active ingredients which may include surface-active agents such as heavy aromatic naphthas, kerosene or other petroleum fractions, or vegetable oils; and/or stickers such as dextrins, glue or synthetic resins.

    [0012] In U.S. Patent 6,890,889, herbicidal formulations comprising agriculturally active ingredients in combination with an adjuvant system were disclosed to optimize post emergent activity on broadleaved weeds in corn. The preferred adjuvant system to optimize weed control and minimize crop response was disclosed to be a crop oil concentrate (COC). Other adjuvant systems for use in the formulation may comprise liquid compositions such as methylated seed oil (MSO), urea ammonium nitrate (UAN) and ammonium sulfate (AMS). No granular formulations are disclosed.

    [0013] In Published U.S. Patent Application US 2005/0096226, herbicidal compositions useful for controlling weeds in growing crops such as maize (corn) comprising triketone products including mesotrione in combination with an organic phosphate, phosphonate or phosphinate adjuvant were disclosed which can be prepared as a pre-mix concentrate for formulation in various forms including granular formulations with typical carriers such as sand, fuller's earth, attapulgite clay, bentonite clays, montmorrilonite clay, vermiculite, perlite and other organic or inorganic materials which absorb or which can be coated with the active compound.

    [0014] Thus, when a typical weed control product is analyzed for active ingredient content, the overall weight percentage of active ingredient (Al) obtainable from the product normally is the key parameter considered. However, the distribution of the active ingredient on the surface of the granules has generally not been evaluated or specifically controlled and methods for adequately providing such control have not been available. This lack of distribution control in the production processes has resulted in significant quantities of granules having active ingredient coatings with thicknesses and/or concentrations greater than the level that can be solubilized by the available moisture, which in most cases is the morning dew. The literature suggests that moderate morning dew in the spring in the United States can deposit on average 30 mg/cm2 of water with a thickness of about 0.3 mm.

    [0015] In foliar treatments, plants transport active ingredients into their cell structure based on a concentration gradient and only the amount of active ingredient that can be solubilized will be transported into the weed. Thus, if a granule has a thick coating of active ingredient and if there is insufficient moisture on a treated leaf to dissolve the available active ingredient present in the coating, the excess active ingredient in the coating will not be transported into the cell structure of the plant for purposes of enhancing the weed killing effect of the applied granular product.

    [0016] In this regard, it should be noted that in addition to the economic disadvantages resulting from waste of active ingredients when excess concentrations of such active ingredients are applied on the foliar surface of a weed in order to assure maximum intake of solubilized actives, governmental restrictions in the U.S. and elsewhere must also be taken into consideration concerning the amount of active ingredient that can be applied for weed control. Such governmental regulations may preclude the use and/or sale of products which will provide excessive application rates of actives ingredients when applied to weed foliage.

    [0017] Thus, it has been a continuing problem in the art to provide methods for production of granular weed control products having relatively uniform distribution of active ingredients applied on the granules. In the absence of such methods, significant economic and functional problems have been encountered with the granular products produced employing methods which do not provide adequate distribution control capabilities. Such lack of distribution control can result in products that exhibit inconsistent and generally lower weed control and inefficient utilization of active ingredients including use of significantly greater concentrations of the active ingredients to achieve desired levels of weed control and these quantities may exceed governmental standards.

    [0018] It would be advantageous to provide methods for producing granular agricultural products having improved control of the distribution pattern of active ingredients on such granular products.

    [0019] Additionally, it would be advantageous to provide methods for improving the distribution of active ingredient (Al) on the surface of a weed control granule enabling reduction of the thickness of the active ingredient coating.

    [0020] It also would be advantageous to provide methods for minimizing the potential for Al supersaturation in a granular weed control product and maximizing transport of the active ingredient (Al) on the granular product into the plant cells to cause effective kill of treated weeds.

    SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION



    [0021] The invention provides with
    • a method for preparing granular weed control products
    • the use of the product produced by this for treating broadleaf weeds, and
    • a method for dispensing at least one agriculturally active ingredient in a molten liquid state onto a granular substrate to form an agriculturally effective minimum coating thickness on the substrate
    as laid down in the independent claims. Specific embodiments thereof are laid down in dependent claims and in this description.

    [0022] Accordingly, it is an object of the present invention to provide methods for producing granular agricultural products having improved distribution of agriculturally active ingredients on the surface of the granules.

    [0023] It is another object of this invention to provide methods for controlling the thickness of coatings applied on the surface of agriculturally active granular products to promote the transport of the active ingredient on the granules into the cells of treated weeds.

    [0024] Another object of this invention is to provide methods for producing agriculturally active granules having controlled distribution of active ingredients on the granular surface, the granules being adapted for spray application onto foliar surfaces of weeds.

    [0025] A further object is to provide methods for spraying atomized droplets of at least one agriculturally active ingredient in a molten liquid state onto the surface of granules in a manner such that the distribution of the agriculturally active ingredient on the granular surface is controlled to enable enhanced transport of the active ingredient into the cell structure of a plant, such as a weed, treated with the resulting granular product.

    [0026] In particular, it is an object of this invention to provide methods for improving the distribution of agriculturally active ingredients applied on the surface of granular substrates by spraying atomized droplets of at least one agriculturally active ingredient in a molten liquid state on granules such as fertilizer granules, inert agriculturally acceptable granules and the like and mixtures thereof through nozzles which atomize at least a portion of the sprayed at least one agriculturally active ingredient in a molten liquid state, enabling the atomized droplets of the agriculturally active ingredient in a molten liquid state to be deposited on the granular surface at a controlled deposition rate and, most preferably, in a desired controlled distribution pattern such as a nonlinear, non- rectangular pattern.

    [0027] Another particular object of this invention is to provide methods for dispensing at least one agriculturally active ingredient in a molten liquid state onto a granular substrate to form an agriculturally effective minimum coating thickness on the substrate by spraying the at least one agriculturally active ingredient in a molten liquid state through a nozzle onto the granular substrate at a certain deposition rate, preferably about 30 - 40 grams per second, and in a manner such that at least a portion of the sprayed agriculturally active ingredient in a molten liquid state is atomized and a coating is formed on the granular substrate at a sufficient thickness to enable substantially all of the agriculturally active ingredient on the granular substrate to be solubilized by naturally occurring moisture when the coated granules are applied to weed foliage such as the leafs of broadleaf weeds.

    [0028] In this regard, it has been found that by improving the distribution of the active ingredient on the surface of the granules and by reducing the thickness of the active ingredient coating, the potential for active ingredient supersaturation is minimized and transport of the active ingredient into the weed cells is maximized.

    [0029] Accordingly, a higher probability of delivering a lethal dose of active ingredient exists employing weed control products produced in accordance with the present invention in view of the higher levels of active ingredient transported into treated leaf cell structures whereby a greater percentage of treated weeds, such as broadleaf weeds, are killed at a given active ingredient total formulation concentration on the granules.

    DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION



    [0030] In accordance with the present invention, granular herbicidal products for use in controlling weeds in a turfgrass, for example, are provided comprising agriculturally active ingredients coated on granular substrate materials wherein the granular substrates are solid fertilizer granules, inert solid carrier materials and the like and mixtures thereof. In a preferred embodiment, the solid fertilizer granules are organic or inorganic nitrogen-containing compounds.

    [0031] Furthermore, in accordance with the present invention, at least one sprayable agriculturally active ingredient in a molten liquid state is prepared and spray coated, preferably through a particular nozzle configuration, onto a granular surface such as a fertilizer granule, an inert granular substrate and the like and mixtures thereof, at a prescribed deposition rate to provide a desired coating thickness and percentage active ingredient coverage of the granular surface. The sprayable liquid constitutes the active ingredient per se in a molten state.

    [0032] The agriculturally active ingredient in a molten liquid state is sprayed through nozzles in a manner such that at least a portion thereof is atomized and applied onto the granular surface in a desired coating thickness and at a desired deposition rate. In this regard, the level of atomization of the spray is primarily dependent on the droplet size and, in a preferred embodiment of this invention, the preferred range of mean volume droplet diameters (MVD) should be about 100 to about 200 microns.

    [0033] The thickness of the coating of active ingredient applied on the surface of the granular substrates herein will depend on a variety of factors. However, it has been found that a minimum effective coating thickness of active ingredient to be deposited on the granules to achieve optimal results when the coated granules are applied on weed foliage should be about 5.00 micrometers (µm) for best weed control results. In this invention the thickness of the coating ranges from about 2 to about 10 micrometers (µm) to produce a granular product which is effective in accordance with this invention to reduce the potential for supersaturation and to enable an optimal amount of active ingredient to enter into the leaf cells of a treated plant.

    [0034] The term "deposition rate" as employed herein refers to the rate at which the active ingredient is applied to the surface of the substrate granules and, preferably should be in a range of about 3.7 to about 5.0 grams per second of spray agriculturally active ingredient in a molten liquid state applied on the granules when the travel rate of the granules through the spray zone is about 30 to about 40 grams per second. The term "spray zone" as employed herein refers to the area on which atomized liquid from a spray nozzle orifice makes contact with the surface of a granular substrate. The geometry or shape of the spray zone is determined by the nozzle design (i.e., full cone, hollow cone, flat spray and the like). Most preferably, the ratio of spray to granule travel rate should range from about 6:1 to about 8:1 to achieve the most effective deposition rate for active ingredient coating. The travel rate of the granule surface is controlled by the fluidization rate and retention time of the granule processing equipment. The granule processing equipment can be a continuous or batch blender, fluidized bed, and or rotating drum. In this regard, it should be noted that the thickness of the coatings on the granule may be controlled by the retention time of the granules in the spray zone and/or the travel rate of the granules through the spray zone at a constant liquid deposition rate.

    [0035] Atomization of the at least one agriculturally active ingredient in a molten liquid state is achieved in accordance with this invention by spraying the at least one agriculturally active ingredient in a molten liquid state through spray nozzles that have small orifices to create hydraulic pressure that is significant enough to break apart the fluid stream as it is delivered to the substrate. It has been found in accordance with this invention that nozzles which break apart the stream and form a cone shaped spray deposition pattern on the granular substrate are within the preferred parameters. In this regard, preferred nozzle designs for use in the methods of the present invention are various known nozzle designs including hollow cone designs, full cone designs, air assist designs and the like. However, certain of the known spray nozzle designs such as flat spray nozzles have been found to be ineffective for use herein.

    [0036] Specifically, full cone design nozzles provide spray patterns on sprayed substrate surfaces in the spray zone that may be doughnut shaped, round, square or oval and the spray patterns are completely filled with droplets. Such nozzles are hydraulically atomized nozzles which contain an internal vane or deflector that breaks apart the sprayed at least one agriculturally active ingredient in a molten liquid state and imparts controlled turbulence to the liquid prior to a nozzle orifice to form the spray pattern. The spray shape such as the doughnut shaped or circular spray pattern minimizes over-spray while creating a large liquid spray area and, thus, increases application coating efficiency and uniformity. An example of this nozzle design is the UniJet®TG0.4 Spray Nozzles, sold by Spraying Systems Co., which develops droplets with a mean volume droplet diameter (MVD) of 180 microns.

    [0037] Hollow cone type nozzles which are also hydraulically atomized nozzles provide hollow cone spray patterns that are essentially circular rings of liquid which are generally formed by use of an internal grooved vane or deflector immediately upstream from a nozzle orifice, or by an inlet formed in the nozzle tangential to a whirl chamber. The internal deflector design or whirling liquid feature of the hollow cone type nozzles helps generate a small liquid droplet size and a relatively large spray area. An example of this type of nozzle design is the UniJet® TX2 Spray Nozzles, sold by Spraying Systems Co., which produces droplets with a mean volume droplet diameter (MVD) of 105 microns.

    [0038] Another nozzle design useful for spraying agriculturally active ingredients in accordance with this invention is the air assist design. This design uses a high pressure of about 8-12 pounds per square inch (PSI) (55.16 - 82.74 kPa) air stream, which is externally combined with the spray liquid to break apart the stream into fine droplets. The greater the compressed air flow pressure, the smaller the liquid droplet size for a constant liquid flow rate. This nozzle design allows an increase in the delivery rate while maintaining small droplet sizes equal to the hollow cone or full cone designs, by increasing compressed air pressure, thus allowing greater granular travel rates passing through the spray zone of about 200-260 grams per second.

    [0039] Nozzles having characteristics within the above parameters as described herein atomize the active ingredient liquid into droplets to a size 50% smaller than a flat spray nozzle design. The flat spray nozzle is also a hydraulically atomized liquid design. However, flat spray nozzle designs such as the VeeJet TP8001 nozzles sold by Spraying Systems Co., which do not include internal deflectors to assist in breaking up the liquid flow have been found to create a relatively small rectangular pattern on the surface of the spray zone and to develop a liquid droplet having a mean volume droplet diameter (MVD) of about 233 microns, have been found to be ineffective for use in the methods of the present invention.

    [0040] In this regard, it should be noted that, under similar conditions at pressures of about 100 pounds per square inch (PSI) (68.95 kPa), hollow cone design (TX2) type nozzles develop droplets with a mean volume droplet diameter (M VD) of 105 microns and full cone design (TG0.4) type nozzles develop droplets with a mean volume droplet diameter (MVD) of 180 microns as opposed to the unacceptable flat spray type nozzle designs which develop droplets with a mean volume droplet diameter (MVD) of 233 microns.

    [0041] Thus, the use of full cone and/or hollow cone and/or air assist nozzles to spray active ingredients onto granular substrate surfaces in the methods of the present invention for preparing granular weed control products have been found to produce desired active ingredient coating or coverage areas on such granular substrate surfaces and, also, to provide desired deposition rates for application of such coatings.

    [0042] Preferred agriculturally active ingredients for use in preparing the sprayable at least one agriculturally active ingredient in a molten liquid state to be used in the methods of this invention are any pesticidal agents capable of being solubilized and applied in liquid form for treatment of weeds including any one or more of the known herbicidal compositions. Examples of the wide variety of suitable herbicides for use herein are described in U.S. Patents Nos. 4,213,776; 5,965,487; 5,965,490; 6,022,829; 6,297,197; 6,303,814; 6,417,140; 6,579,831 ; 6,890,889; 6,924,250; 6,962,894 and 7,115,545.

    [0043] Most preferable herbicides for use in the methods of this invention are 2,4-D (2,4-dichloro-phenoxyacetic acid) and MCPP-p (2-(2-methyl-4-chlorophenoxy)propionic acid). As noted, the preferred form of the most preferred herbicides are acidic.

    [0044] The sprayable liquid for use in preparing granular weed control products comprises the agriculturally active ingredient per se in a molten state, for example, for use within a spraying temperature range of 200° F-285° F (93.3°C - 140.6°C).

    [0045] In the methods of the present invention, the granular substrates onto which the liquid containing at least one agriculturally active ingredient are sprayed preferably comprise fertilizer granules and may comprise any type of fertilizer core compound(s). Known chemical fertilizers including potassium nitrate, potassium sulfate, urea, ammonium nitrate, monopotassium sulfate, ammonium phosphate and the like and fertilizers obtained from compounding these fertilizer materials may be employed as the granular substrates in the present invention. Also, fertilizers containing micronutrients or trace elements may be used as the granules. Examples of suitable UF fertilizers for use herein are described generally in 6,039,781 for example. Also, other examples of fertilizers useful herein are described in U.S. Patent No. 6,579, 831.

    [0046] Further illustrative fertilizers which can be employed as a granular composition for use in the present invention include a wide variety of fertilizer granules, particles or pellets (which are referred to collectively herein as fertilizer granules) such as organic and inorganic nitrogen-containing compounds comprising urea, urea- formaldehyde condensation products, amino acids, ammonium salts and nitrates, potassium salts (preferably chlorides, sulfates, nitrates) and phosphoric acid and/or salts of phosphoric acid. Also, it should be noted that the fertilizer granules suitable for inclusion in the present mixtures may also contain micronutrients, such as iron, manganese, magnesium, boron, copper, zinc and the like.

    [0047] The physical forms of the fertilizers to be employed in the methods of the present invention include granules and extruded particles. Fertilizer granule sizes, preferably, should range from about 1.0 to about 5.0 mm diameter (most preferably, about 1.5 - 3.0 mm). Extruded particle sizes preferably should range from about 0.6 to about 7.0 mm diameter (most preferably, about 1.0 - 3.0 mm). Particle length preferably should range from about 0.6 to about 10.0 mm (most preferably, 1.0 - 5.0 mm).

    [0048] Preferably, the chemical analysis of the fertilizer component to be used in the present methods should range from about 1 to about 40% by weight elemental nitrogen (N) (most preferably, about 15 - 36% by weight); about 1 to about 30% by weight phosphorous as P2O5 (most preferably, about 1-27% by weight); and about 1 to about 20% by weight potassium as K2O (most preferably, about 3 - 15% by weight). The micronutrient content of the fertilizer ingredient, preferably, should range from about 1 to about 20,000 ppm (parts per million).

    [0049] In a preferred embodiment of this invention a methyleneurea fertilizer is utilized as the granular substrate for the weed control products so that when the product is applied to control weeds, for example, in turf applications, the fertilizer portion of the product will be useful in treating the turf while the selected herbicidally active ingredient will control the weeds.

    [0050] Examples of inert agriculturally acceptable granular substrates useful in the methods of the present invention are those described in U.S. Patent No. 6,579,831. Additionally, suitable inert solid carrier materials for use herein include any of a variety of organic and/or inorganic materials, which may be coated with the agriculturally active ingredient and that have been appropriately ground/fractionated/sized. Suitable organic materials include agglomerated cellulosic carrier granules such as Biodac®, sold by Kadant GranTek, Inc., which is described in US Patent 5,843,203. Other suitable organic materials include such manufactured, not screened, products having a structure consisting of a wood fiber core such as EcoGranules™ sold by Cycle Group, Inc.; compressed coir granular products such those described in US Patents 6,189,260; 6,408,568 and 6,711 ,850; corncobs; peanut hulls; processed paper pulp; sawdust and the like whereas suitable inorganic materials include limestone, diatomaceous earth, gypsum, sand, vermiculite, perlite, fuller's earth and clays such as attapulgite clays, bentonite clays, montmorillonite clays and mixtures of these substrates.

    [0051] In preferred embodiments of this invention, methods are provided for applying a liquid Al which, for example, may contain a systemic herbicide such as 2,4-D and MCPP-p on a granular substrate such as a methyleneurea fertilizer, a physical fertilizer blend or an encapsulated fertilizer or an inert substrate or other substrate. Preferably, the liquid Al is sprayed on the granular substrate through hydraulically atomized spray nozzles having designs such as full cone or hollow cone structures. These full cone or hollow cone nozzle designs have been found to atomize Al droplets to a size which may about 50% smaller than would be achieved employing a flat spray nozzle design. In an alternate embodiment, air assist spray nozzles can be utilized and a deposition rate or material travel rate passing through the spray zone of 200-260 gm/second is attained. The Al coverage area employing any of these application nozzles should equal a sufficient width and length to cover the entire surface of the granular substrate being coated in the spray zone.

    [0052] Employing the herein described spray nozzle designs, it has been found that the Al coating thickness is minimized, reducing the potential for supersaturation to occur and allowing increased levels of Al to enter treated leaf cells. The resulting Al coating thickness ranges from about 2.0 to about 10.0 micrometers (µm).

    [0053] The following specific examples are presented to further illustrate and explain certain aspects of the present invention. However, the Examples are set forth for illustration only, and are not to be construed as limiting on the present invention. In the following examples, all percentages and parts are by weight unless otherwise specified.

    [0054] In addition, the coating thicknesses described in the following Examples are based on the percentage of active ingredient coverage generated by spraying active ingredient in a molten liquid state through particular nozzle design arrangements. In this regard, it was found that hollow cone nozzle designs provided 46.17% coverage of active ingredient on the sprayed granules while air assist nozzle designs provided 35.31% active ingredient coverage. Based on these findings, the coating thicknesses were calculated as being 4.88 µm and 6.38 µm, respectively, which thicknesses were within the desired coating thickness ranges for the desired weed control products. To the contrary, the active ingredient coverage achieved by spraying through flat spray nozzles resulted in active ingredient coverage of 16.84% providing calculated coating thicknesses of 13.37 µm which were significantly greater than the desired level of active ingredient coating thicknesses required to avoid the potential for supersaturation when the products are applied to weeds.

    Example 1



    [0055] Four separate sprayable liquid solution samples were prepared by dissolving 70% by weight 2,4-D and 30% MCPP-p active ingredients at a temperature of 129 °C (265 F). The mixture was heated and agitated for a period of 20-30 minutes in steam jacketed vessel to ensure uniformity. Using a continuous Pilot Plant granulation system, an NPK methyleneurea based fertilizer substrate was prepared at a nutrient analysis of 28-2-3. The process of manufacturing to fertilizer using molten methyleneurea resin generated a granular fertilizer substrate at a temperature of 29.4-35 °C (85-95 F). The warmed methyleneurea fertilizer was then continuously fed into a blender with retention time such that the material travel rate could be maintained between 30- 40 grams per second through the active ingredient spray zone comprising the total area of the continuous blender where active ingredient could be applied to the granular surface. The molten active ingredient solution was pumped, on a continuous basis, through a steam jacketed piping system, in order to reach the spray nozzle area at a temperature consistent with the steam jacketed vessel temperature. The pumping system controlled the rate of active ingredient application such that delivery was maintained at 3.7-5.0 grams per second, as well as generate a final product analysis with 1.22% 2,4-D and 0.61% MCPP-p to manufacture four samples of a commercially available Turf Builder® Plus 2 (with reduced 'P') granular fertilizer (marketed by The Scotts Miracle Gro Company, Marysville, Ohio, USA) to produce four coated weed control product samples.

    [0056] Four different Al spray nozzle designs were employed for spraying the liquid solution onto the granular fertilizer substrate. The first nozzle design was a flat spray design which displayed a rectangular spray pattern and provided almost no liquid atomization (i.e., MVD of 233 microns). The second nozzle design was a full cone (MVD 180 microns) design and the third nozzle design was a hollow cone (MVD 105 microns) design. The full cone and the hollow cone designs displayed circular spray patterns and provided significantly greater liquid atomization when compared to the flat spray design. The fourth nozzle design employed was an air assist pneumatically operated assembly (pressure orifice) having two fluid zones, one for active ingredient (Al) containing solution and the other for heated compressed air, which provided an atomized, fine spray, During each experiment, the liquid Al deposition rates, as well as the granular substrate material travel rates, were held constant in the targeted ranges of about 3.7 to 5.0 grams per second of spray solution applied on the granules at a granule travel rate of about 30 to about 40 grams per second through the spray zone.

    [0057] Once the production of the four weed control product samples was completed, a small sample of each was taken and placed into a scanning electron microscope (SEM) with an energy dispersive spectrometer (EDS) detector. Once the sample was placed in the SEM and testing initiated, the electron beam collided with the sample surface and generated backscatter electrons which help form the image of the sample surface. As a result of the collisions, x-rays, having energy levels that are characteristic of specific elements and in there respective spatial arrangement on the sample surface, were also generated.

    [0058] The EDS detector measures the energy from element specific x-rays generated during the electron beam scan without losing the element's spatial arrangement on the sample surface. Quantitative weight percentages of each element on the surface were estimated by measuring the total amount of each characteristic X-ray energy generated as the electron beam collided with the sample. Since 2,4-D and MCPP-p have elemental chlorine (CI) in their formula, that element was used to determine the spatial arrangement of each active ingredient compound on the granule surface. Using this technique on samples that were not treated with active ingredient, it was determined that the surface of the methyleneurea fertilizer granules were almost completely covered with elemental nitrogen (N), oxygen (O), and carbon (N). Based on that finding, the percentage of the surface covered with active ingredient was estimated by first measuring the total quantitative weight of nitrogen (N) detected and then measuring the quantitative weight of chlorine (Cl), without altering their spatial arrangement on the sample surface. The ratio of the chlorine wt% and the nitrogen wt% were used to estimate the percentage of active (Al) coverage on the particles.

    [0059] This procedure was replicated three times for each sample evaluated and a summary of the results achieved by application of the liquid solutions on the granular fertilizer substrates as described herein including the weight percents of elemental nitrogen and chlorine, the ratio of elemental chlorine to elemental nitrogen and the coating thicknesses calculated from elemental maps is shown in the following table for each nozzle design.
     Full Cone Spray NozzlesHollow Cone Spray NozzlesAir Assisted Spray NozzlesFlat Spray Nozzles (Controls)
    Wt% N 35.29 30.16 34.09 37.51
    Wt% Cl 7.93 13.71 11.93 6.29
    CI:N Ratio 0.2267 0.4617 0.3531 0.1684
    Thickness of Coating, µm 9.93 4.88 6.38 13.37


    [0060] The tabulated results demonstrate that a coating thickness in the range of about 2-10 µm was achieved by spraying atomized droplets of the liquid solution onto the substrates using the full cone, the hollow cone and the air assisted nozzle designs. With the testing indicating that the air assist and the hollow cone designs provided the best overall active ingredient distribution on the granular substrate surfaces.

    [0061] To the contrary, the flat spray nozzles (designated as Controls) which caused rectangular spray patterns without atomization of the sprayed droplets, resulted in coatings of 13.37 µm which were significantly greater than the desired coating thickness range so that these samples could result in active ingredient (Al) supersaturation when the product is applied for weed control which would cause active ingredient (Al) waste.

    Example 2



    [0062] Coated fertilizer granules prepared in accordance with the procedures of Example 1 by spraying of the liquid solutions on the fertilizer granules described therein using the indicated spray nozzle designs, were spread by using a laboratory spreader device, onto dandelion and white cover weeds in early morning and with naturally occurring dew in Marysville Ohio. The test began in mid-September and the percentage weed control achieved four weeks after application was noted and tabulated as follows:
    Percentage Weed Control Achieved By Spray Application of Coated Granules (% Control)
    Full Cone Spray NozzlesHollow Cone Spray NozzlesHollow Cone Spray NozzlesFlat Spray Nozzles (Controls)
    Dandelion White Clover Dandelion White Clover Dandelion White Clover Dandelion White Clover
    78.3 69.4 90.8 74.6 91.7 60.4 66.1 39.5


    [0063] As demonstrated by the percentage weed control results shown in the table, coated granular products having the active ingredient (Al) incorporated in the liquid solution sprayed onto the Turf Builder® Plus 2 (with reduced 'P') granular fertilizer surface through the flat spray Control nozzles which provided a rectangular spray pattern without atomization when applied to the indicated plants in the early morning in Marysville Ohio and having naturally occurring dew thereon , resulted in only 66.1% control of dandelion plants and 39.5% control of white clover plants, whereas products produced by spraying atomized droplets of the liquid solution onto the fertilizer granules using the full cone, and the hollow cone designs resulted in 78,3 % to 91.7% control of dandelion plants and 69.4% to 74.6% control of white clover plants.

    [0064] This significant improvement in weed control demonstrated in this example was unexpected and attributable to the combination of the sprayable liquid solution employed and the atomizing effect of the nozzles through which the liquid solutions were applied to the granules, particularly, when the generally circular spray pattern demonstrated when full cone and hollow cone nozzles were employed.

    [0065] Although the invention has been described in its preferred forms with a certain degree of particularity, it is to be understood that the present disclosure has been made by way of example only. Numerous changes in the details of the compositions and ingredients therein as well as the methods of preparation and use will be apparent, as defined in the appended claims.


    Claims

    1. A method for preparing granular weed control products comprising: spraying atomized droplets of at least one agriculturally active ingredient in a molten liquid state onto the surface of the granules at a deposition rate sufficient to provide a coating on the surface of the granules having a thickness enabling the agriculturally active ingredient on the granule to be solubilized, wherein said coating thickness is in a range of 2 µm to 10 µm.
     
    2. The method of claim 1, wherein the atomized droplets are sprayed through at least one nozzle selected from the group consisting of full cone and hollow cone nozzles at a deposition rate in a range of 3.7 to 5.0 grams per second of spray applied on the granules at a travel rate of the granules through a spray zone of 30-40 grams per second.
     
    3. The method of claim 2, wherein the ratio of molten liquid spray to granule travel rate ranges from 6:1 to 8:1.
     
    4. The method of claim 1, wherein the atomized droplets are sprayed through at least one air assisted spray nozzle to provide hydraulically atomized droplets at a deposition rate of 200-260 grams per second.
     
    5. The method of claim 1, wherein the granules are selected from the group consisting of fertilizer granules and inert agriculturally acceptable granular substrates and mixtures thereof.
     
    6. The method of claim 5, wherein the inert agriculturally acceptable granular substrate is selected from the group consisting of organic and inorganic materials and mixtures thereof, wherein the organic materials are selected from the group consisting of agglomerated cellulosic carrier granules, wood fiber core granules, compressed coir granules, corncobs; peanut hulls; processed paper pulp; sawdust and mixtures thereof, and wherein the inorganic materials are selected from the group consisting of limestone, diatomaceous earth, gypsum, sand, vermiculite, perlite, fuller's earth, clay and mixtures thereof.
     
    7. The method of claim 1, wherein the at least one agriculturally active ingredient is a systemic herbicide.
     
    8. The method of claim 7, wherein the systemic herbicide is selected from 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid and 2-(2-methyl-4-chlorophenoxy)propionic acid.
     
    9. Use of the product produced by the method of claim 1 for treating broadleaf weeds.
     
    10. A method for dispensing at least one agriculturally active ingredient in a molten liquid state onto a granular substrate to form an agriculturally effective minimum coating thickness on the substrate comprising spraying the molten liquid through at least one atomizing spray nozzle onto the granular substrate to form a coating on the granular substrate at a thickness sufficient to enable the agriculturally active ingredient on the granular substrate to be solubilized by naturally occurring moisture when applied to a weed, wherein said coating thickness is in a range of 2 µm to 10 µm.
     
    11. The method of claim 10, wherein the atomizing spray nozzle is selected from the group consisting of full cone and hollow cone nozzles having a plurality of orifices arranged to provide a desired pattern when a molten liquid is dispensed from the nozzles at a deposition rate in a range of 3.7 to 5.0 grams per second of molten liquid on granules traveling through a spray zone at a travel rate of 30-40 grams per second.
     
    12. The method of claim 10, wherein the nozzle is selected from the group consisting of full cone design nozzles, hollow cone design nozzles, and air assist design nozzles.
     


    Ansprüche

    1. Verfahren für die Herstellung körniger Unkrautbekämpfungsprodukte, umfassend: Spritzen zerstäubter Tröpfchen von mindestens einem landwirtschaftlich aktiven Bestandteil in einem geschmolzenen flüssigen Zustand auf die Oberfläche der Körnchen mit einer Absetzrate, die ausreicht, eine Beschichtung auf der Oberfläche der Körnchen bereitzustellen, wobei die Beschichtung eine Dicke aufweist, die es dem landwirtschaftlich aktiven Bestandteil auf dem Körnchen ermöglicht, solubilisiert zu werden, wobei die Beschichtungsdicke in einem Bereich von 2 µm bis 10 µm liegt.
     
    2. Verfahren nach Anspruch 1, wobei die zerstäubten Tröpfchen durch mindestens eine Düse, ausgewählt aus der Gruppe bestehend aus Vollkegel- und Hohlkegeldüsen, mit einer Absetzrate in einem Bereich von 3,7 bis 5,0 Gramm pro Sekunde Spray, der auf die Körnchen bei einer Bewegungsrate der Körnchen durch eine Sprayzone von 30-40 Gramm pro Sekunde aufgebracht wird, gespritzt werden.
     
    3. Verfahren nach Anspruch 2, wobei das Verhältnis von geschmolzenem flüssigem Spray zu Körnchengeschwindigkeit im Bereich von 6:1 bis 8:1 liegt.
     
    4. Verfahren nach Anspruch 1, wobei die zerstäubten Tröpfchen durch mindestens eine luftunterstützte Spraydüse gespritzt werden, um hydraulisch zerstäubte Tröpfchen mit einer Absetzrate von 200-260 Gramm pro Sekunde bereitzustellen.
     
    5. Verfahren nach Anspruch 1, wobei die Körnchen aus der Gruppe ausgewählt werden bestehend aus Düngemittelkörnchen und inerten, landwirtschaftlich akzeptablen, körnigen Substraten und Mischungen davon.
     
    6. Verfahren nach Anspruch 5, wobei das inerte, landwirtschaftlich akzeptable, körnige Substrat aus der Gruppe ausgewählt ist bestehend aus organischen und anorganischen Materialien und Mischungen davon, wobei die organischen Materialien aus der Gruppe ausgewählt sind bestehend aus agglomerierten zellulosischen Trägerkörnchen, Holzfaserkernkörnchen, komprimierten Kokosfaserkörnchen, Maiskolben; Erdnussschalen; verarbeiteter Papiermasse; Sägemehl und Mischungen davon, und wobei die anorganischen Materialien aus der Gruppe ausgewählt sind bestehend aus Kalkstein, Diatomeenerde, Gips, Sand, Vermiculit, Perlit, Fullererde, Ton und Mischungen davon.
     
    7. Verfahren nach Anspruch 1, wobei der mindestens eine landwirtschaftlich aktive Bestandteil ein systemisches Herbizid ist.
     
    8. Verfahren nach Anspruch 7, wobei das systemische Herbizid unter 2,4-Dichlorphenoxyessigsäure und 2-(2-Methyl-4-chlorphenoxy)propionsäure ausgewählt ist.
     
    9. Verwendung des Produkts, das durch das Verfahren nach Anspruch 1 hergestellt wird, zum Behandeln von Breitblattunkräutern.
     
    10. Verfahren zum Verteilen mindestens eines landwirtschaftlich aktiven Bestandteils in einem geschmolzenen flüssigen Zustand auf ein körniges Substrat, um eine landwirtschaftlich wirksame Mindestbeschichtungsdicke auf dem Substrat zu bilden, umfassend das Spritzen der geschmolzenen Flüssigkeit durch mindestens eine zerstäubende Spraydüse auf das körnige Substrat umfasst, um eine Beschichtung auf dem körnigen Substrat in einer Dicke zu bilden, die ausreicht, um zu ermöglichen, dass der landwirtschaftlich aktive Bestandteil auf dem körnigen Substrat durch natürlich vorkommende Feuchtigkeit solubilisiert wird, wenn er auf ein Unkraut aufgebracht wird, wobei die Beschichtungsdicke in einem Bereich von 2 µm bis 10 µm liegt.
     
    11. Verfahren nach Anspruch 10, wobei die zerstäubende Spraydüse aus der Gruppe ausgewählt wird bestehend aus Vollkegel- und Hohlkegeldüsen, die eine Mehrzahl von Öffnungen aufweisen, die angeordnet sind, um ein erwünschtes Muster bereitzustellen, wenn eine geschmolzene Flüssigkeit aus den Düsen mit einer Absetzrate in einem im Bereich von 3,7-5,0 Gramm pro Sekunde geschmolzener Flüssigkeit auf Körnchen aufgebracht wird, die sich mit einer Bewegungsrate von 30-40 Gramm pro Sekunde durch eine Sprayzone bewegen.
     
    12. Verfahren nach Anspruch 10, wobei die Düse aus der Gruppe ausgewählt wird bestehend aus Vollkegelkonstruktionsdüsen, Hohlkegelkonstruktionsdüsen und luftunterstützten Konstruktionsdüsen.
     


    Revendications

    1. Procédé pour préparer des produits de lutte contre les mauvaises herbes en granulés comprenant : la pulvérisation de gouttelette atomisées d'au moins un ingrédient actif du point de vue agricole à l'état liquide fondu sur la surface des granulés à une vitesse de dépôt suffisante pour fournir un enrobage sur la surface des granulés ayant une épaisseur permettant à l'ingrédient actif du point de vue agricole sur le granulé d'être solubilisé, dans lequel ladite épaisseur d'enrobage est dans une plage allant de 2 µm à 10 µm.
     
    2. Procédé selon la revendication 1, dans lequel les gouttelettes atomisées sont pulvérisées à travers au moins une buse sélectionnée parmi le groupe constitué de buses à cône plein et à cône creux, à une vitesse de dépôt dans la plage allant de 3,7 à 5,0 grammes par seconde de pulvérisation, appliquées sur les granulés à une vitesse de déplacement des granulés à travers une zone de pulvérisation de 30 à 40 grammes par seconde.
     
    3. Procédé selon la revendication 2, dans lequel le rapport entre une pulvérisation liquide fondue et une vitesse de déplacement des granulés va de 6 : 1 à 8 : 1.
     
    4. Procédé selon la revendication 1, dans lequel les gouttelettes atomisées sont pulvérisées à travers au moins une buse de pulvérisation assistée par air comprimé pour fournir des gouttelettes atomisées hydrauliquement à une vitesse de dépôt de 200 à 260 grammes par seconde.
     
    5. Procédé selon la revendication 1, dans lequel les granulés sont sélectionnés parmi le groupe constitué de granulés d'engrais et de substrats en granulés acceptables du point de vue agricole inertes et des mélanges de ceux-ci.
     
    6. Procédé selon la revendication 5, dans lequel le substrat en granulés acceptable du point de vue agricole inerte est sélectionné parmi le groupe constitué de matières organiques et inorganiques et des mélanges de celles-ci, dans lequel les matières organiques sont sélectionnées parmi le groupe constitué de granulés supports cellulosiques agglomérés, de granulés à noyau de fibres ligneuses, de granulés de fibres de coco compressées, de rafles de maïs ; de son d'arachides ; de pulpe de papier traitée ; de sciure de bois et des mélanges de ceux-ci, et dans lequel les matières inorganiques sont sélectionnées parmi le groupe constitué du calcaire, de terre de diatomées, du gypse, du sable, de la vermiculite, de la perlite, de terre à foulon, d'argile et des mélanges de ceux-ci.
     
    7. Procédé selon la revendication 1, dans lequel l'au moins un ingrédient actif du point de vue agricole est un herbicide systémique.
     
    8. Procédé selon la revendication 7, dans lequel l'herbicide systémique est sélectionné parmi l'acide 2,4-dichlorophénoxyacétique et l'acide 2-(2-méthyl-4-chlorophénoxy)propionique.
     
    9. Utilisation du produit produit par le procédé selon la revendication 1 pour traiter des mauvaises herbes à feuilles larges.
     
    10. Procédé pour distribuer au moins un ingrédient actif du point de vue agricole dans un état liquide fondu sur un substrat en granulés pour former une épaisseur d'enrobage minimale efficace du point de vue agricole sur le substrat comprenant la pulvérisation du liquide fondu à travers au moins une buse de pulvérisation par atomisation sur le substrat en granulés pour former un enrobage sur le substrat en granulés d'une épaisseur suffisante pour permettre à l'ingrédient actif du point de vue agricole sur le substrat en granulés d'être solubilisé par l'humidité apparaissant naturellement lorsqu'il est appliqué sur une mauvaise herbe, dans lequel ladite épaisseur d'enrobage est dans la plage allant de 2 µm à 10 µm.
     
    11. Procédé selon la revendication 10, dans lequel la buse de pulvérisation par atomisation est sélectionnée parmi le groupe constitué de buses à cône plein et à cône creux ayant une pluralité d'orifices agencée pour fournir un motif souhaité lorsqu'un liquide fondu est distribué à partir des buses à une vitesse de dépôt dans la plage allant de 3,7 à 5,0 grammes par seconde de liquide fondu sur des granulés se déplaçant à travers une zone de pulvérisation à une vitesse de déplacement de 30 à 40 grammes par seconde.
     
    12. Procédé selon la revendication 10, dans lequel la buse est sélectionnée parmi le groupe constitué de buses de type à cône plein, de buses de type à cône creux, et de buses de type assistées par air comprimé.
     




    REFERENCES CITED IN THE DESCRIPTION



    This list of references cited by the applicant is for the reader's convenience only. It does not form part of the European patent document. Even though great care has been taken in compiling the references, errors or omissions cannot be excluded and the EPO disclaims all liability in this regard.

    Patent documents cited in the description