Best Water Conditioners for Irrigation/Agricultural Use

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Best Water Conditioners for Irrigation/Agricultural Use

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It goes without say that water is vital for all life on earth. The percentage of water a plant needs depends on the species of plant, how much light the plant gets, and age of the plant. It ranges from 90 – 95%.

Similarly, water is essential for sustaining the lives of animals. The percentage of water in the animal body (including humans) depends on various factors such as age, gender, weight. It ranges from 50 – 75%

A reliable source of water is necessary for both plants and animals. The water source must be in good condition for consumption by animals or uptake by plants. Water in good condition means the quality is high enough to meet the needs of users. 

To ensure that water is of good condition it may be necessary to use a water conditioner

What is a water conditioner?

A water conditioner, or water conditioning agent, is a chemical that is used to remove or alter minerals, chemicals, and contaminants from a water source. 

  • For example, water conditioners counteract hardness in water to prevent a buildup of deposits. Hard water is water that contains high concentrations of dissolved minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, and iron.

In agricultural pest management, a water conditioner is classified as a utility modifying adjuvant which can widen the range of conditions under which a given pesticide formulation is useful. 

  • For example, water conditioners are used to prevent hard water minerals from antagonizing pesticide molecules that would otherwise compromise pest management.

For humans, the quality of water that we drink is important, and that goes for crop production too. 

Water quality in crop production

There are two instances in crop production where water quality needs may require the use of water conditioning agents. Water quality has major implications for crop production when: (1) crops are irrigated and (2) pesticides are applied.

  1. Irrigation of crops:
    • Crops are irrigated to supply water and fulfill moisture needs. 
    • Irrigation systems consist of a pump, regulators, filters, adapters, distribution lines (pipes), and emitters. 
    • Water is steered through the irrigation system from its source to the crop. 
    • The irrigation water is usually from ground sources such as wells, ponds, rivers, springs, lakes, canals, and dams.
  2. Pesticide application:
    • Pesticides are applied to crops using a sprayer to mitigate pest infestations that would otherwise reduce production. 
    • Most pesticides are applied using water as a carrier and a sprayer that consists of a pump, tank, flow regulation system, hoses/pipes, and nozzles. 
    • The source of water is often from wells, ponds, rivers, springs, lakes, canals, and dams.

A common aspect with water used for irrigation and pesticide applications is that it is usually untreated. Problems can occur that would impact irrigation efficiency and pest management outcomes. To prevent problems from occurring, a water conditioner should be used. 

What is the difference between a water conditioner and a water softener?

Water conditioner

A water conditioner will “condition” water and change the chemistry of hard water minerals, for a certain amount of time to keep them from building up.

Therefore, a water conditioner will:

  • Change the chemistry of hardness particles for a certain amount of time
  • Reduce deposit build up in pipes for a certain amount of time
  • Remove additional chemicals, like chlorine, from water

Water softener

A water softener will “soften” water by removing the hardness particles (like calcium and magnesium) from your water supply. 

Therefore, a water softener will:

  • Remove calcium and magnesium (hardness particles) from your water supply
  • Reduce or eliminate deposit build-up in pipes

Using water conditioners for pest management

In recognition of the impact of hard water on pest management outcomes, herbicide applicators routinely include a water conditioning agent in the pesticide spray mixture. In particular, applicators use water conditioners containing nitrogen materials, such as urea ammonium nitrate (UAN), ammonium polyphosphate [10-34-0], or ammonium sulfate.

  • On addition to water, the ammonium salts will dissociate into ammonium ions and negatively charged chelating portions.
  • The ammonium ions will attach to the herbicide and will not interfere with absorption, as is experienced when the herbicide attaches to the positively charged calcium, magnesium, and iron.
  • The chelating portions will attach to the positively charged calcium, magnesium, and iron ions.

Using water conditioners for irrigation systems

Unlike pest management where the need for a water conditioner is critical when pesticides are being applied, irrigation systems need to be maintained free of impediments  

Therefore, using a conditioning agent to flush the irrigation system at the end of the growing season helps clean out unwanted material in the pipes, such as salt deposits of magnesium, calcium, iron, and other cations commonly found in water.

Further Reading


  • Bohmont, B.L. 2007. The Standard Pesticide User’s Guide – 7th Ed. Pearson Prentice Hall. Pp. 246-270.



Brewer International has been a leader in land and water chemistry since the 1980’s and for over 40 years has proudly served it’s national and regional distributors. 

Our products are used widely across the United States in agriculture, aquatics, forestry, rights of way, and land management. 

Our customers trust our dedication to quality ingredients, tried and true formulas, and positive outcomes.

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