How Technology Can Help You Prevent Spray Drift

Spray drift. News articles about damage caused by spray drift seem to pop up regularly, almost as daily reminders, during the summer months. Whether it be dicamba-related issues in those states of the U.S. where dicamba-tolerant soybeans are grown, 2,4-D related issues in the Australian cotton-growing region, or any number of other events that are reported on in the news on a regular basis, spray drift seems to be omnipresent.

Spray drift, the airborne movement of chemicals as droplets, particles or vapor, can have many causes but the main ones are:

  • Wrong droplet size; small droplets drift easier.
  • Wrong conditions (inversion, wind too low or too high).
  • Wrong formulation used; ester instead of amine formulations for example.

Chemical drift can have far reaching consequences, from not properly spraying the field that you intend to spray, to damaging a neighbor’s crop, or even creating a health hazard for humans and animals. In the long run, the consequences of repeated spray drift can mean that growers lose access to key weed control tools. Examples of this are repeated calls to ban or restrict the use of 2,4-D in Australia’s cotton growing areas, with similar dicamba issues in certain states of the U.S. This recently became even more real for many growers as the scary prospect of losing glyphosate played out as Brazil temporarily banned the use of this valuable herbicide, even though there was no scientific justification for the decision. Growers and suppliers all over the world were relieved when this initial ruling in Brazil got overturned, but it was a good reminder that it is up to us to demonstrate responsible use so that they are not taken away, leaving us with more expensive / time-consuming options.

As shown above, there are a multitude of reasons that can cause off-target drifting, but all these reasons lead back to one common theme: Operator knowledge. Droplet size for example is a factor of pressure and nozzle type, weather factors can be measured with a weather meter and product suitability information can be found on product labels. Identifying inversions however is not that easy and it takes some practice and experience. In most areas, spray operators have to successfully complete a training course before they are allowed to operate a spray rig, but these courses only really teach the basics and operators need more experience and on-the-job training in order to become proficient.

Renowned Australian spray application expert Mary O’Brien is a passionate advocate for sustainable agriculture. She conducts workshops in spray drift risk management and assists clients with record keeping and legislative compliance among other issues. In her role as spray application expert, she encounters problems caused by spray drift on a daily basis. Mary’s comments on the operator knowledge: “I believe most operators are trying to do the right thing but they are not confident in identifying inversions and they put too much emphasis on delta T which leads to night spraying. Other issues I commonly see are applicators not reading the label, using the wrong nozzles, or using the right nozzles but the wrong way.”

Farm Management Systems (FMS) will play a key role in the future in helping growers fulfill regulatory requirements in many aspects of their operation and spraying is one of them. Growers need to keep a record of what is being sprayed on each of their fields, when their fields have been sprayed, and the climatic conditions at the time of application. Increasingly growers decide to automate this process. By linking an agronomists’ spray recommendation to a farm worker’s job list, critical information can be accessed by the spray operator, irrespective of time and place. Information such as product and rate are pre-filled in a work order already in collaborative systems, so spray operators don’t have to double-enter information.

Agworld Co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer Matt Powell remarks: “Agworld is designed around the principle of collaboration which involves everyone on or around the farm such as agronomists, growers, farm workers, custom applicators etc. Part of getting farm workers involved is making it super easy for them to record data onto the Agworld platform, but also letting them access critical information pertaining to the jobs that they are performing and the exact location they should be spraying. When your farm workers have a platform like Agworld that helps them easily record jobs on their iPad or iPhone, they are automatically encouraged to think about what they enter and whether what they are doing is correct and the app can provide extra layers of checking or warn them if something looks wrong.”

Mary adds: “I strongly encourage good spray record keeping as your records are the best way to demonstrate what you did and how you did it. Having detailed records demonstrates due diligence and will be invaluable if your practices are ever questioned. Systems that provide access to critical information and constantly remind applicators to check what they are doing will help keep best practice at the front of everyone’s mind.”

By providing spray operators with a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) that involves accessing the work order and product labels and then entering nozzle, pressure, and weather information in an app such as Agworld that makes this information available to the grower, agronomist, and everyone else involved, a lot of issues can be prevented.

“Spray drift issues can cause friction between neighbors and are often very costly affairs when fields, vineyards, or orchards get damaged,” Powell says. “Whenever a government gets involved in recurring issues more regulation seems to be the answer, which can be even more expensive for growers in the long run. If growers use the tools that are available to them to help avoid these issues, we can avoid additional regulatory burden as much as possible as an industry.”

Leave a Reply

Decision Support Software Stories
Decision Support SoftwareNew Software Monitors Water Risk for California Agriculture
September 28, 2018
AQUAOSO Technologies PBC, a software company that helps customers identify, understand, and monitor water supply risks has officially unveiled their Read More
AmericasFarmers Edge Announces New Retail-Facing Precision Ag Platform
September 25, 2018
Farmers Edge announced the launch of a new solution designed exclusively for agricultural professionals to enhance their relationships with customers Read More
Corn field sunset
Decision Support SoftwareLand O’Lakes SUSTAIN Launches Ambitious Digital Stewardship Platform
September 24, 2018
Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN today announced its plan to roll out the Truterra Insights Engine, an interactive on-farm digital platform that Read More
Mobile Phone in field
Decision Support SoftwareWhy Are 570 Million Farmers Not Yet Using Agricultural Apps?
September 17, 2018
Until recently, using agricultural apps and software was a rare practice among growers. This is now changing. The mass adoption Read More
Trending Articles
PrecisionAg InstituteOne on One with Mike Gomes, Topcon
October 15, 2018
Mike Gomes of Topcon Precision Agriculture joins Paul Schrimpf, Group Editor of PrecisionAg Professional magazine, for a discussion of key Read More
PrecisionAg InstitutePrecisionAg Institute Whitepaper Library
October 1, 2018
Welcome to the PrecisionAg Institute Whitepaper library! Here you will find free whitepapers and case studies from the PrecisionAg Institute Partners Read More
Sensors/IoTThe Answer to Agriculture’s Daunting Challenges – Soil Sensors
September 20, 2018
According to the United Nations, 9.6 billion people will live on planet Earth by 2050. Feeding these mouths will require Read More
Data ManagementAre You Using Your Soil to Its Full Potential?
September 14, 2018
Harvest is progressing across most parts of the U.S. and those growers who aren’t already harvesting are gearing up to Read More
Imagery/SensingAgtech: 10 Things I Hate About You!
September 4, 2018
Before you get bent out of shape from the title, remember if you’ve read my articles before you know I Read More
Kansas State University
Industry NewsKansas State University, Topcon Form Precision Ag Research Partnership
August 30, 2018
Kansas State University and Topcon Agriculture are collaborating to develop tools and systems to advance precision agriculture and support farmers. Read More
Latest News
Service ProvidersPutting Agronomic Advice Into Action – A Full-Season Fi…
October 17, 2018
It’s one thing to read, write, or know about helping customers best manage their fields – it’s another to put Read More
Data ManagementMythbusting: Is Weather More Unpredictable Due to a Cha…
October 16, 2018
There are some commonly spoken narratives that are actually false, at least as stated in the exact words used, that Read More
DronesEnhance Your Agriculture Workflow in Less Than 30 Minut…
October 15, 2018
Prunes are European plums with a high sugar content that allows them to dry without fermenting around the pit and Read More
PrecisionAg InstitutePartner Profile with Winfield United
October 15, 2018
Joel Wipperfurth of Winfield United discusses ag technology trends and topics during the 2018 InfoAg Conference. Read More
PrecisionAg InstitutePartner Profile with Simplot Grower Solutions
October 15, 2018
Allan Fetters of Simplot Grower Solutions discusses ag technology trends and topics across the industry, and within the company, during Read More
PrecisionAg InstituteEncouraging Employees to Think Into the Future is Winni…
October 15, 2018
EFC Systems CEO Ernie Chappell says his company is always looking ahead to understand growers’ future needs. “It’s not just Read More
PrecisionAg InstitutePartnership with SDSU is One Way Raven Industries Advan…
October 15, 2018
Raven Industries’ partnership with South Dakota State University allows the company to work closely with students and staff to advance Read More
PrecisionAg InstituteOne on One with Kirk Appleford, Proagrica
October 15, 2018
Kirk Appleford joins Paul Schrimpf at the 2018 InfoAg Conference to talk about current ag trends, and Proagrica’s recent acquisition Read More
PrecisionAg InstituteOne on One with Charlie Magruder, ESRI
October 15, 2018
Charlie Magruder joins Paul Schrimpf for a discussion of current trends in technology that are impacting ESRI, including news from Read More
PrecisionAg InstituteOne on One with Shane Swedlund, Raven Industries
October 15, 2018
Shane Swedlund of Raven Industries joins Paul Schrimpf at the 2018 InfoAg Conference to share some key learnings from the Read More
PrecisionAg InstituteOne on One with Mike Gomes, Topcon
October 15, 2018
Mike Gomes of Topcon Precision Agriculture joins Paul Schrimpf, Group Editor of PrecisionAg Professional magazine, for a discussion of key Read More
PrecisionAg InstituteOne on One with Ernie Chappell, EFC Systems
October 15, 2018
Ernie Chappell of EFC Systems joins Paul Schrimpf, Group Editor of PrecisionAg Professional magazine, to talk about topics and trends Read More
Robotics/Labor SaversPrecision Agriculture in Specialty Crops: Labor, Cost S…
October 9, 2018
Agriculture is going through an equivalent of what the computer industry went through in the 1970s and 1980s. That’s when Read More
EventsA Crazy 2018 is Why We Need Growing Innovations
October 8, 2018
If you’re here you likely have received a special Meister Media Worldwide code to get $100 off your registration to Read More
AmericasConBAP 2018 Highlights Precision Agriculture in Brazil
October 8, 2018
The Brazilian Congress of Precision Agriculture 2018 (ConBAP 2018) was held October 2-4 in Curitiba, Paraná. Held every two years, Read More
Service ProvidersGar Tootelian: Putting Ag Technology to the Test
October 8, 2018
In California’s Central Valley, a diverse crop market in which Pest Control Advisors (PCAs) are the dominant players when it Read More
Spray Drift
Decision Support SoftwareHow Technology Can Help You Prevent Spray Drift
October 8, 2018
Spray drift. News articles about damage caused by spray drift seem to pop up regularly, almost as daily reminders, during Read More
UncategorizedTopcon, Kansas State Make it Official: Establish Resear…
October 4, 2018
Today, Topcon Agriculture and Kansas State University announced a comprehensive partnership, according to a news release issued by the University. Read More