Air, Apparently

Aerial application

Based upon the early returns from market analysts and Extension researchers, 2007 could end up being a blessing and a curse for aerial applicators.

On the plus side of the equation, a substantial increase in the number of corn acres being grown across the country could translate into significantly more business opportunities for aerial applicators.

On the negative side, significantly more corn acres could tax the ability of the aerial applicator network to “get the job done” during the season’s narrow application window.

“It took, at times, a week to 10 days to get a plane to get the job done,” says Robin Schroeder, manager for Wagner Seed and Supply, Jerseyville, IL, of the company’s aerial application experience during the normal paced 2006 season. “The acres being done were overwhelming and I realized then that if we had an aphid, rootworm, or fungicide rush, we were going to be in a world of hurt. It’s not the airplane numbers, it’s the time responding to the need.”

As most retailers know by now, the reason this situation is coming to the forefront in 2007 ties back to the expected uptick in demand for U.S. corn to feed the ethanol trend. Since the U.S. government issued the Renewable Fuel Program of the Energy Policy Act in 2005, the activity surrounding the biofuels market has been steadily increasing. To meet the Act’s goal of alternative fuel usage of 7.5 billion gallons by 2012, some ag economists estimate the nation’s ever-growing number of ethanol plants will be consuming 2.5 billion bushels of corn per year, up from approximately 1 billion bushels today. If this projection is correct, ethanol will utilize more than 30% of the U.S. corn harvest annually over the next five years — double the industry’s current usage figure.

Preparing to meet this anticipated demand, U.S. growers are planting many more acres of corn than at any time in the past 50 years. Although projections vary depending upon their source, most analysts foresee a minimum of 9 million to a maximum of 12 million more corn acres going into American soil by the time spring’s planting season is complete. This increase will put total corn acreage between 80 million and 90 million acres.

The Quest For Higher Yield

As a result of all this activity, the per bushel price for corn has risen from $1.80 in 2006 to more than $4 during the first quarter of 2007. Naturally, this potential “money boom” is encouraging growers to look at any method possible to boost their corn yields to as high a level as possible. According to some research, one of the ways to accomplish this is through the application of a corn fungicide during the tasseling stage of crop growth. A few studies indicate corn yield can be increased by up to 15 bushels per acre using this method. “Manufacturers are coming to the table with products and are proving a yield increase on all corn,” says Joel Meyer, an aerial applicator based in Iowa.

According to Andrew Moore, executive director for the National Agricultural Aviation Association (NAAA), this is the point at which aerial applicators are expected to come into the corn equation in 2007. “This fungicide application is being done at a time when the corn is too high for most ground applicators to work,” says Moore. “Also, aerial application can be done even if the field is too wet for ground applicators to run.”

There is a fear in the industry, however, that there won’t be enough aerial applicators to go around once tasseling time begins, given the increased amount of corn acres they will be asked to cover. At the recent Commodity Classic trade show, several attendees reported hearing that dozens of growers were “paying money in advance” to aerial applicators to “make certain they will have them lined up to cover all their extra acres.”

Still, most aerial applicators CropLife talked with are confident that they will be able to handle the added acreage without too much trouble. “We are a tight community that reaches across the country with equipment that is very mobile,” says Tim Tyree, an aerial applicator at Tyree Ag Inc., Kinsley, KS. “While I don’t have the equipment to spray all the corn in my immediate area myself over a two-day period, I do have — just like every other pilot in the country — a network of operations and pilots I can call to make sure my customers’ fields are sprayed timely and correctly.”

Bryan Hauschild, an aerial applicator at Otter Aviation, Inc., Fergus Falls, MN, agrees. “Our operation may not have the large turbine aircraft, but we can have multiple aircraft come to our operation in short time,” says Hauschild. “We can even have aircraft here the same day from as far away as Texas. Since we have reciprocity agreements between many states, the applicator does not have to wait for testing and license issuance to begin work.”

Doing Some Field Work

Of course, the key to meeting this demand will boil down to timing. According to Meyer, the commercial corn acreage potential in his Iowa territory ranges from 50,000 acres to more than 150,000 acres. “Timing is one of the big issues,” he says. “The direction we’ve been given is that if you see a tassel or two in the field, it’s time to start.”

To make this process easier, Meyer will rely on the retailers and growers to do the scouting, which is relatively easy since tassels are easy to spot. He also uses precision technology on each plane that provides highly accurate application guidance and ensures a thorough and effective application.

What’s not so easy is predicting the application window, and how fast it will close. In general, once tasseling starts, the window for maximum benefit is 10 days to 2 weeks.
“Of course, weather will have a significant impact,” notes Meyer. “Cooler temperatures and low moisture will increase our window, while heat and rain will move the corn right along. It will test us as far as getting the people in the right places.” There also can be days lost to weather issues such as high wind that ground the planes.

Meyer says that at this point, retailers and manufacturers are clear on the benefits, the product options, and the application method, but more strategic planning is required as far as ensuring growers are served when needed.

“There’s no reason retailers can’t sit down now and map out a strategy for aerial-applied corn acres,” says Meyer. “For example, multiple maturity dates can create more opportunities — 100-day corn vs. 113-day corn will have very different tasseling times, and planting dates will also affect maturity. Retailers need to get this information from growers if they don’t already have it and incorporate it into the strategy.”

Thinking Ahead

As far as his own capacity, Meyer is fairly confident he can handle the workload that’s coming, but admits he has no idea how much pent-up demand might be out there. “Growers need to visit with retailers and plan things out so they get the service they need,” says Meyer.

NAAA’s Moore agrees with this viewpoint. “The aerial application industry is migratory with adequate supply networks,” he says. “However, growers that may have significant demand for corn fungicide applications should contact their local aerial applicators immediately so the applicator can gauge the number of planes and pilots they will need to supply during this busy application window from areas of the country where aerial applicators may not be as active during the corn fungicide application season.”

Getting into this kind of pre-planning habit probably isn’t a bad idea, adds Moore. “From everything that been said about it, ethanol appears to be the kind of trend that will have some very long legs,” he says. “This will most likely mean plenty of corn acreage increases for many years to come. Getting used to this market reality now is probably the best way to make sure the whole aerial application industry can be there to help when its called upon to do so.”

Leave a Reply

Crop Inputs Stories

Young corn plants
Crop InputsNufarm Reorganizing Ag, Industrial Vegetation Management Sales Divisions
August 3, 2015
Today Nufarm announced a reorganization of its Agriculture and Industrial Vegetation Management sales and marketing organizations effective August 1, 2015. Read More
FungicidesReport: Sudden Death Syndrome Symptoms Appearing In Soybeans
July 30, 2015
Last week, symptoms of sudden death syndrome (SDS) began to appear in April 15-planted soybeans at the University of Illinois’s Read More
Seed/BiotechAdvanta Seeds Adds New Phoenix Corn Hybrids
July 30, 2015
Corn growers in the High Plains and Western states have new options available for the 2016 growing season from Advanta Read More
GYPSOIL Blendable Pellets
Crop InputsBeneficial Reuse Management Launches Pelletized Gypsum Product
July 29, 2015
Beneficial Reuse Management (BRM) announced this week at Ag Media Summit that its GYPSOIL Pelletized Products Division will open a Read More
Top 100 Articles
CropLife 100Southern States Coop Hosting Drone Flight This Friday
August 3, 2015
Southern States Cooperative — No. 9 on the CropLife 100 — is hosting an FAA-approved drone demonstration at Grandview Farms Read More
CropLife 100Allied Ag Distributors Adds Four New Owners
July 30, 2015
Aligned Ag Distributors LLC has announced the addition of four new customer/owners to Franklin Holding Co. LLC. They are: The Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Purchases California-Based Specialty Crops Retailer
July 20, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings has successfully acquired California-based NH3 Service Co.  Operating as part of Pinnacle’s Performance Agriculture brand, the new locations Read More
Asmus Farm Supply liquid fertilizer facility features 20,000 square feet
CropLife 100Slideshow: Asmus Farm Supply Shows Off Its New Liquid Fertilizer Facility
July 15, 2015
Asmus Farm Supply, Rake, IA, recently added a new liquid fertilizer facility to its company operations. The new liquid fertilizer Read More
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis Feed Division Facilities Receive Safe Feed/Safe Food Certification
July 13, 2015
Wilbur-Ellis Co.’s Feed Division, a marketer and distributor of value-added feed ingredients for the aquaculture, livestock and pet food industries Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT Expands To Brazil With Acquisition
July 8, 2015
BRANDT has acquired a majority interest in Target Brasil Fertilizantes Ltda. through its Brazilian subsidiary. Target Brasil manufactures, distributes and Read More
Latest News
StewardshipOhio Grower: Why Water Quality Matters To Me
August 3, 2015
Fresh off the first anniversary of last summer’s unfortunate Toledo Water Crisis — which was largely attributed in mainstream media Read More
Young soybean field
Industry NewsH.J. Baker To Build New Facility In Emporia, KS
August 3, 2015
H.J. Baker has announced the expansion of its Animal Health and Nutrition division with the ground breaking of a new Read More
Young corn plants
Crop InputsNufarm Reorganizing Ag, Industrial Vegetation Managemen…
August 3, 2015
Today Nufarm announced a reorganization of its Agriculture and Industrial Vegetation Management sales and marketing organizations effective August 1, 2015. Read More
StewardshipExcellence Through Stewardship Reaches 30 Members
August 3, 2015
Excellence Through Stewardship, a non-profit that promotes the adoption of best practices and stewardship in agricultural technology, reached the milestone Read More
CropLife 100Southern States Coop Hosting Drone Flight This Friday
August 3, 2015
Southern States Cooperative — No. 9 on the CropLife 100 — is hosting an FAA-approved drone demonstration at Grandview Farms Read More
CropLife 100Allied Ag Distributors Adds Four New Owners
July 30, 2015
Aligned Ag Distributors LLC has announced the addition of four new customer/owners to Franklin Holding Co. LLC. They are: The Read More
FungicidesReport: Sudden Death Syndrome Symptoms Appearing In Soy…
July 30, 2015
Last week, symptoms of sudden death syndrome (SDS) began to appear in April 15-planted soybeans at the University of Illinois’s Read More
Seed/BiotechAdvanta Seeds Adds New Phoenix Corn Hybrids
July 30, 2015
Corn growers in the High Plains and Western states have new options available for the 2016 growing season from Advanta Read More
ManagementTechnology and agriculture: a Futurist’s Perspective
July 30, 2015
Futurist David Zach, speaking at this week’s InfoAg Conference in St. Louis, shared thoughts on the benefits and limitations of Read More
Biofuels Plant in Lousiana
Industry NewsIdle Biofuels Plant In Louisiana To Reopen As Ammonia F…
July 30, 2015
A Lithuania-based company plans to spend $265 million to reopen an idle biofuels refinery in Grant Parish as an ammonia Read More
FFA at Monsanto Booth at the 2015 National Farm Machinery Show
Industry NewsFive Students Receive The 2015 Monty’s Plant Food Compa…
July 29, 2015
This fall, five college-bound students will have financial support through the Monty’s Plant Food Company FFA Scholarship. All five scholarship Read More
GYPSOIL Blendable Pellets
Crop InputsBeneficial Reuse Management Launches Pelletized Gypsum …
July 29, 2015
Beneficial Reuse Management (BRM) announced this week at Ag Media Summit that its GYPSOIL Pelletized Products Division will open a Read More
StewardshipOhio Water Quality Project To Determine How Much Phosph…
July 27, 2015
Researchers with the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University are looking for farmers in Read More
FertilizerKoch Agronomic Services Launches N-TEGRATION Technology
July 27, 2015
Koch Agronomic Services, LLC (KAS) has launched  N-TEGRATION Technology, a process technology platform designed to enable production of enhanced efficiency fertilizers at Read More
HerbicidesExpert: IARC Herbicide Classifications Leading To Confu…
July 24, 2015
Few people in the crop protection industry had heard of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) before this Read More
ManagementFCI Trade Summit Update & Precision Tank Turns 50
July 23, 2015
Editors Dave Frabotta and Eric Sfiligoj discuss the upcoming FCI Trade Summit in Las Vegas, NV, and how Precision Tank Read More
Palmer pigweed seedhead in cotton
HerbicidesUSDA Deregulates Dow AgroSciences’ Enlist Cotton Trait
July 23, 2015
The USDA today issued its decision deregulating Dow AgroSciences’ Enlist cotton trait in the U.S. The USDA has now completed its Read More
Industry NewsVerdesian Life Sciences Showcases Versatile Product Por…
July 23, 2015
Technology has revolutionized agriculture by bringing farmers, retailers and distributors to the forefront of the digital age. To meet the Read More