Wet Betty - Technical Description
The Wonders of Wet Betty:
Using a proprietary non-ionic surfactant, Advanced Nutrients has formulated the ultimate wetting agent called Wet Betty, and we provide both Organic and synthetic formulations. Since these non-ionic surfactants both reduce the strong hydrogen bonding capacity of water molecules and attach better to leaf waxy cuticle, Wet Betty is more efficient than any other ionic surfactant (i.e. detergent) marketed for horticultural purposes.
Hydrogen bonding is what keeps water molecules clumped together, and Wet Betty overcomes the tendency for this to happen. That is what all materials called surfactants do; they interfere with the hydrogen bonding capacity of water and thereby spread the water molecules apart. The word surfactant is derived from the phrase surface acting agent since they disrupt the surface tension of water sticking to itself or other surfaces via hydrogen bonding.
But Wet Betty also gets dissolved into waxy coverings of leaves because she is made from a non ionic substance, modifying the physical properties of the leafs waxy cuticle upon contact. This is one reason that Wet Betty can be used at such low rates; she strongly penetrates the waxy cuticle that covers leaves.
Wet Betty's exact formulation cannot be revealed, but it is not a detergent. We have researched the numerous classes of surfactants that are used in every process of food manufacture and found that two specific sources and formulations of non-ionic surfactants that are miscible in water so that they make ideal wetting agents for horticultural practices.
The Wet Wonder of Water:
Water is the reason life exists here on Earth. And it is because of certain properties in the water molecule that it is such an enabler of life. Water is made of H2O, hydrogen and oxygen, two of the most common elements in the universe. And in this combination they happen to make one of the most potently polar molecules in the nature! It is a peculiar molecule because of this strong polarity.
To say that water is polar means that each H2O molecule carries both a positive and a negative charge. If we draw the H2O molecule out, it can be depicted as in fig. 1. This way of drawing the H2O molecule is sometimes called the Mickey Mouse model since it looks like the flat outline of the Disney characters head. There are two ears represented by the two hydrogen (H) atoms, and a head represented by the oxygen (O) atom. The polarity of a molecule of H2O can be described as there being two positively charged ears and a negatively charged chin.
These polar water molecules will attract each other, with the negative chin on one molecule of H2O being attracted to the positive ear of another H2O molecule. This kind of polar attraction is called Hydrogen Bonding and it is this trait of polarity that confers to water most of its life promoting qualities. All the H-bonds in a drop of water add up making it a very self-adhering material. Fig. 2 shows H-bonding between H2O molecules, and between salts dissolved in water.
This extensive H-bonding makes water a liquid over a wide range of temperatures, giving it a high boiling point relative to that of its role in life at lower temperatures. This high amount of hydrogen bonding also makes water become less dense when it freezes, so that ice floats. This is the opposite of most materials which become more dense when they are solid than as a liquid.
The hydrogen bonds in water are so strong that it has an extremely high boiling point for a substance with such low molecular weight. For example, in comparison to CO2 which has a molecular weight of 44 g/mol, water has a molecular weight of just 18 g/mol. But liquid CO2 evaporates to a gaseous state almost instantly at -73 deg C, whereas water remains a liquid for a large range from 0 to 99 degrees C, and boils to become a gas at 100 deg C!
The reason that water is so hard to convert from a liquid to a gas is its polarity that gives H2O the ability to form strong, self adhering hydrogen bonds. CO2 is much heavier with more than twice the molecular weight of water, but it cannot form such intermolecular H-bonds, and so it becomes a gas almost instantly.
This high polarity in H2O means any other positively of negatively charged elements will be immediately surrounded by water molecules and thereby become dissolved. Water is said to form a hydration sphere around all charged molecules with positive atoms like Fe2+ attracting the negative chins of the oxygen atom on H2O around itself. (see Fig. 2)
In contrast to Fe2+, a negatively charged molecule like phosphate (PO4 2- ) would have a hydration sphere with the positively charged ears of the H2O molecule facing inwards. Polarity also gives water the tendency to clump to itself, and form droplets that are held together by the strong hydrogen bonding, creating surface tension.
This solubilising ability of water is essential for life. Wet Betty smoothly helps to spread around the magic polarity of H2O, enabling it to do its work. As a surfactant this is expected, but Wet Betty is unique in her ability to soften waxy cuticles. Detergents cannot alter the physical properties of waxy cuticle like wet Betty does.
Advanced Nutrients formulation is designed to soften the waxy skin of leaves while spreading the watery film of nutrients applied to leaves. Softening the waxy cuticle is essentially opening the primary barrier preventing water from entering the leaf to reach cell walls and cell membranes. Wet Betty is not a detergent, shes a non-ionic surfactant that carries no phosphate or sulphate salts.
Wet Betty Original and How Surfactants Work:
First of all what are surfactants? Surfactants are surface active agents that can be broadly defined as compounds which, when dissolved in water tend to concentrate at surfaces between water and air, or water and plant cuticle, the waxy surface on leaves. When they concentrate at these interfaces, they cause the hydrogen bonds in water to become disrupted in these interface areas, and can pull apart or spread the droplets of water with them for as far as the surface will allow a film to form.
The activity of these surfactants at interfaces can be explained in terms of their molecular structure. Variations in this structure give rise to a wide range of surface chemistry functions for surfactants. These functions include wetting, emulsifying, solubilising, foaming/defoaming, antistatic, glossing, lubricity and surface conditioning. In the case of Wet Betty, to avoid divulging proprietary details, the only chemical properties we can describe are that it is a non-ionic, non-detergent type of wetting agent.
Surfactants have a low solubility in water, and those surfactant molecules that do go into solution will all concentrate at interfaces. Surfactant molecules are amphiphiles meaning they have two qualitatively different parts on each molecule; one part is attracted to water and the other is attracted to waxes and lipid (fatty) materials. In Wet Betty, Advance Nutrients formulated a surfactant that is close to the middle of this range of qualities; however as a non-ionic surfactant Wet Betty is slightly more drawn to polar than to non-polar surfaces.
The water loving part is referred to as the hydrophile part, whereas the water repelling part of a surfactant molecule is called the lipophile. Scientists rate surfactants according to the hydrophillic lipophillic balance (HLB) of their molecular structure. HLB is measured on a scale of 1 to 20, with plant oils rating 1.0 3.0, and detergents at near 20.0. Wet Betty was designed to have a middle of the range HLB, at 11.5.
The hydrophilic portion of a surfactant molecule will either have a mild polar charge on it or it will have a strong ionic charge on it from losing an H atom. It is this water-loving portion of the molecule that will insert into water droplets, while the water-repelling portion attaches to the waxes on leaf surfaces. In this configuration, the hydrogen bonding along the surface of the water-droplet is disrupted as it gets gradually spread out by the contact of lipophilic parts of the molecules with the waxy layer on leaf surfaces.
Non-ionic surfactants like the formulation in Wet Betty are polar molecules meaning one end has a mild charge enabling it to be soluble in water. Wet Bettys surfactant does not have an ionic group such as a negatively charged phosphate or sulphate group as are found in detergents. Wet Bettys surfactant has a HLB of 11.5 meaning it is miscible with water, but also binds readily with water-repelling waxes of leaves.
In contrast to other brands of wetting agent that use an ionic surfactant like a common detergent with HLB near 20.0, Advanced Nutrients found that certain non-ionic surfactants could more effectively reduce surface tension of water, at lower concentrations than could be accomplished with conventional soaps.
Other brands of wetting agents used in horticulture require between 30 to 60 ml per litre of nutrient solution to be effective. Advanced Nutrients use of a non-ionic, surfactant formulation provides the modern grower with a product thats 30 to 60 times more effective than other brands; Wet Betty needs to be applied at only 1-2 ml per litre of nutrient solution.
This is because of the way Wet Bettys formulation as a non-ionic surfactant works. On a scale of 1 to 20 called the hydrophilic-lipophyllic balance (HLB), Wet Betty is right in the middle around 11 12 which means she is soluble in both types of materials. Waxy cuticles cant resist her and melt a little when she comes by, and at the same time water runs to a thin film when Wet Betty is mixed in For a discussion of this in depth the reader is referred to the book called Surfactant and Adjuvant Technical Guide 1996, by Wilfarm and Gladstone, we will keep the discussion to Wet Bettys formulation.
Detergent surfactants are nearly entirely soluble in water and have HLB of nearly 20 compared to Wet Betty at about 11.5. A high HLB surfactant like any detergent will not be attracted to the waxy cuticle as strongly as one like Wet Betty with her HLB at 11.5.
The high HLB surfactants in other brands require that one use much more in order to spread water around upon the waxy surfaces of leaves. In the case of using adjuvants to help foliar feeding programs it is not good to have to use more, as this ends up as residue and is costly. Advanced Nutrients intended Wet Betty to require low application rates, and to have extraordinary spreading effectiveness.
When you are using Wet Bettys unique non-ionic formulation, another feature of lower HLB-surfactant action becomes apparent during foliar feeding; these kinds of molecules change the quality of cell walls and the fluidity of waxy cuticles. In the journal called Weed Technology, vol.14 (2000) an article entitled Interaction of Surfactants with Plant Cuticles describes the mechanisms that non-ionic surfactants like Wet Betty exploit to do what a detergent cant do. Scientists in this study reported that HLB affects how surfactants physically work upon leaf cells, beneath the waxes and through cell walls.
These scientists describe the mechanism that more lipophyllic surfactants have at penetrating leaf surfaces; the lower HLB surfactants like Wet Betty are ones which loosen the waxy layer as they embed into the cuticle. Lower HLB surfactants will alter the physical characteristics of waxy cubicular layers on leaves, actually reducing their melting point. There are materials used as surfactants with HLB of as low as 1.5 3.0, such as concentrated crop oils and esterifies seed oils, and but these are not totally non-miscible with water and of little horticultural value.
Wet Betty has a HLB of 11.5 and is therefore miscible with water, but still has the lipophyllic qualities required to dissolve into waxes and soften the outer skin of plant leaves. This is the main physical barrier to all movement of molecules through plant cells, but water especially. The waxy cuticle is the water tight skin that enables plants to be sealed and hold water inside themselves, to stay turgid and grow. Wet Betty softens this waxy skin first before water rushes under it, stretching open the cell wall fibres, allowing nutrients to fill up the spaces. These then can be absorbed through the cell membrane, just beneath the cell wall.
Detergents with high HLB ratings at 20 do not soften the waxy cuticle like non-ionic detergents surfactants can. Detergents spread water around in a film if they are applied at 30 to 60 times the amount required of Wet Betty. Unless they are applied in near damaging concentrations, detergents can only seep, or intercalate through thinly developed cuticles on the youngest leaves, or not at all; they arent as lipophilic as Wet Bettys lower HLB surfactant formulation is.
Wet Betty does three things; by having a moderate HLB rating of 11.5 she softens the outer waxy layer opening the entire cell wall structure beneath to being hydrated and imbibed by water. Secondly, with the cuticular waxes softened, Wet Betty allows your nutrient solution to rush in beneath the waxy skin into the cell wall and up against the cell membrane. Thirdly Wet Betty acts as a traditional surfactant breaking the surface tension of water droplets, similar to the action of detergents, spreading a film of nutrient solution over every foliar surface.
Detergent based surfactants that need to be applied at 30 60 ml per litre help leaves uptake nutrients by spreading a watery film towards stomata, and to areas with little cuticular wax build-up, such as young leaves. But Wet Betty does it better with just 1-2 ml required per litre, as she helps water go through the waxy skin, allowing it to imbibe into the cell wall delivering dissolved nutrients.
In Wet Betty Advanced Nutrients uses lower HLB surfactants than any other horticultural product available. By the virtue of having an HLB averaging 11.5, these kinds of molecules have a lipophilic half that will bond with the waxy layers on leaves much more intensely than detergents which have HLBs of 20. The properties of waxy cuticles are not affected by detergents. This is why gardeners need to use less of Wet Betty than any other brand of horticultural surfactant.
Foliar feeding with Wet Betty:
When nutrients are fed to your crops via foliar feeding, there are a number of physical barriers that have to be overcome. All foliarly applied fertilizer solution has the problem of application angle, where not all leaf surfaces get equally covered. Also the leaf surface presents barriers of waxy cuticles preventing water entry. Often cystolith hairs covering the leaf further hamper the movement of water into the leaf since pure water will adhere to these in droplets too. And yet foliar feeding has been established as an effective means to increase yield and growth rate of crops.
Examples of how effective foliar feeding can be are numerous, especially when using a surfactant to assist in nutrient absorption. The success of a foliar feeding program depends on all the variables of genetics and environment, but when these are non limiting, foliar feeding enhances growth rate and yield.
An example showing how to enhance yield in cotton by foliar feeding of just one macro element is found in the Agronomy Journal, vol.90 (1998). Cotton crops are frequently given foliar feeding of potassium prior to the start of blooming to enhance yield. In this study surfactants added to the traditional foliar feeding programs of potassium on cotton plants increased flower-yield by 5% compared to the controls lacking surfactants. Wet Betty will accomplish this same effect when applying any of your favourite nutrient solutions as foliar sprays.
Aerial spraying or tractor sprayers are employed in these cotton crops, which are not entirely effective at covering all leaf surfaces. So a spreading agent is a very good idea with such foliar feeding programs. But even an indoor grower can assume the benefits of a surfactant in their feeding programs. The time alone spent at applying the foliar spray warrants including a method of maximizing the intended effect. Wet Betty is perfectly suited to maximize the time invested by the indoor grower to foliarly feed their crops.
When foliarly feeding, our intentions are to deliver nutrients dissolved in water to the internal cellular metabolism of leaves and shoots. To do this we must enable the nutrients to pass through physical barriers on the leaves. Unless one can penetrate the waxy cuticle, these nutrients must find a film of water that reaches the stomata, which are the pores on leaves. A film of water that lead to the stomata is the most direct route for foliarly applied nutrients to enter the leaf, but water treated with Wet Betty will also pass through the waxy cuticle on leaves.
The outer barriers on leaves are water repelling since they are usually composed of waxes and cutin. Once it has gotten past these first barriers, then the fertilizer solution must pass through the cell wall before it reaches the cell membranes where uptake can finally commence. Advanced Nutrients Wet Betty is formulated to accomplish exactly this for the modern grower that wishes to maximize growth by foliar feeding; Wet Betty will enable aqueous solutions of nutrients to have full penetration of all leaves by softening and loosening the waxy cuticle first. Detergents with high HLB values do not alter the physical properties of the waxy cuticle on leaves as Wet Betty does with her lower HLB surfactants.
All of these physical barriers act to block nutrient entry of the leaf, but there is also the surface tension of water to contend with. The physical barriers both stop nutrient absorption and induce water to form droplets. Wet Betty undoes waters surface tension to promote a spreading thin film that will disperse the nutrients of your fertilizer solution over every pore in your garden and through each leaf. Applying just 1-2 ml of Wet Betty per litre of nutrient solution is all thats required; this is much less than is called for by other brands.
Wet Bettys formulation of non-ionic surfactants has been shown to be so effective at reducing surface tension that when applied alone to soil, it will further solubilise background nutrients and make them available for plant use. Soil grown plants treated with Wet Betty alone showed a 3 6 % increase in yield due to a surfactant-chelation effect of immobile soil nutrients. These trials with our surfactant formulation showed that Wet Betty can also be used as an additive to soil based gardens at the same rate as 1-2 ml per litre of fertigation solution.
When mixed with your nutrient solution and applied foliarly, Wet Betty will assist in dispersing each element along a slick layer of water that spreads itself to cover the entire leaf area. The advantage we offer the modern grower with Wet Betty over other brands is the way the non-ionic surfactant is so effective at such low concentrations. Wet Betty is 30 to 60 times more effective than any other brand of wetting agent. Advanced Nutrients formulation offers both a cost saving benefit and an unparalleled growth benefit with this product.