Got ‘R Done

Aerial application

Rev ‘em up, folks — the nation’s aerial applicators answered all challengers this season. To any naysayers who doubted that these flyboys could cover all the extra corn acreage brought on by the ethanol boom, well, excuse them for saying “eat my dust.”

Even though the final numbers aren’t in yet, the 2007 growing season will likely go down in the record books as a very successful one for U.S. crop dusters, according to the National Agri­cultural Aviation Association (NAAA). And that’s no small feat — the load was certainly heavier than usual this season in many areas, due in no small measure to the increased corn acreage and to Mother Nature’s generosity in some regions of the country.

“Obviously, the main activity was in the Midwest with corn,” says Andrew Moore, NAAA executive director. “Plus there was moisture in certain areas — Texas had a lot of moisture — and the applicators I’ve spoken to have had, for the most part, a good season. I talked with some folks in the North­east in mid-September; they planted a lot of corn so they expected to have a very decent season.”

Weather caused the Southeast and Far West to experience a slower, below-normal application season, Moore says. But for many of those operators, this provided the opportunity to help their busy brethren in the Midwest — and balance out their own seasons to boot.

Pinch-Hitter Comes Through

When a friend called for help with Midwestern acres, Matt Crabbe was having a slow season due to drought conditions. Sole proprietor of Crabbe Aviation LLC in Mechanicsville, VA, Crabbe jumped at the offer.

All told, he spent three weeks servicing Midwestern corn and soybean fields. “We sprayed around 20,000 to 25,000 corn acres in mid-July with fungicides and fertilizer for foliar feeding,” he says. “I got back home the first of August, and have been busy since. Then the Midwestern growers had aphids in their soybeans and I went back out there.”

What did Crabbe, an active member of NAAA and several regional associations, learn this season? “We have to study the corn runs to better prepare ourselves,” he says. “The friend I was helping is a pilot, but during this time he didn’t fly, he just ran the operation. At one point, he had 11 aircraft working, spread out over a 40-mile radius. That’s quite an undertaking. It’s hard to organize all those planes to cover all those acres in one week.”

Show And Tell

But the 2007 season proved it can be done, says Rod Thomas, owner of Thomas Helicopters Inc., Gooding, ID and current NAAA president.

“We knew in advance that there’d be plenty of spraying to do,” he says. “When asked by the crop protection companies last fall if we could handle it, we said we could. We’re going to obviously be prepared to treat whatever necessary. This season shows the corn community and the ag community in general that aerial applicators can get the job done. Operators were signing up work well in advance, and contracted with other flyboys to help.

“You’ve got to remember that the additional corn acres came at the expense of other acres — cotton and other commodities we would have been treating — so the equipment was available for the corn acres,” Thomas says.

However, the type of application request was often different this year, points out Rick Reed, sole proprieter of Reed’s Fly-On Farming in Mattoon, IL.

“This is the first time this much work came in of this nature — not a rescue effort, but speculation by the grower that he would get a return in the price of corn to make this fungicide application a viable option this year.”

Reed’s takeaway from the season included concerns about Asian soybean rust. “If and when Asian soybean rust hits Illinois, it’s going to be difficult to cover every acre on a timely basis, even using both air and ground. That’s a little disconcerting,” he says. “There were lots of planes going in Illinois, they covered maybe 25% to 30% of the corn in the state this season. Now figure the acres of soybeans we’ll have to cover in a 2-week period if rust hits.”

Flying’s Future

“I do think that if commodity prices hold, we’re looking at another good year,” says Moore. “It probably will continue that way into the next few years, particularly with corn and the demand for biofuels,” he adds.

Utilize Local Expertise

The National Agricultural Aviation Association (NAAA) stresses that supplementing ground spraying with local aerial operations, if possible, is in the industry’s best short- and long-term interests. In some areas of the Midwest, there have been concerns that retailers did not always hire the local aerial operation, even when it was available.

“We’ve been advocating to the crop protection product manufacturers that when they’re working with their purchasers of product, they emphasize the importance of working with local operators,” says Andrew Moore, NAAA executive director. “This is because the local aerial application operators are best equipped to do the work. They know the landscape. When bringing in out-of-state pilots, they’re the best teachers to let the incoming pilots know the more sensitive areas and areas to be most careful around. They’re the ones that are up to snuff on state regulations. And they’re probably the ones that have the proper secondary containment built, etc., because they’re established businesses and well-versed in local rules and players and whatnot,” Moore says.

“All of this expertise is what’s going to be best for the industry in the long run,” he emphasizes. “Because if this corn run is going to keep up, then aerial operators are going to have to spray more acres in these areas and bring in some folks to help out, and they want nothing but good will for the service they’re providing.”

Leave a Reply

Equipment Stories
EquipmentMeeting Changing Liquid Storage Needs
October 10, 2014
Tank and containment choices are expanding with shifts in farming practices and the economy. Read More
Precision AgGoogle Glass: New Tool For Ag
October 8, 2014
New wearable smart technologies such as Google Glass show potential to greatly impact how we accomplish the business of feeding the world. Read More
Equipment2014 Product Of The Year Voting
September 19, 2014
The deadline to vote for the 2014 CropLife IRON Product of the Year is October 31. Please cast your vote today to help us determine the winner. Read More
Precision AgPrecision Agriculture: Finding The Payback
September 6, 2014
Profitability in precision ag is not about any one technology, but the result of employing technology in a total system approach that is agronomically sound. Read More
Top 100 Articles
CropLife 100BRANDT Commemorates National Ag Day
March 20, 2015
The Illinois agriculture community gathered at BRANDT global headquarters on March 18 to celebrate National Ag Day behind this year's theme Sustaining Future Generations. Read More
Wheat Growers, North Central Farmers Elevator Pursue Merger
CropLife 100Wheat Growers, North Central Farmers Elevator Pursue Merger
March 3, 2015
Two CropLife 100 retailers — South Dakota Wheat Growers (ranked No. 11) and North Central Farmers Elevator (No. 19) — have entered into a Letter of Intent to unify the two companies into a newly named cooperative. Read More
Growmark Group
CropLife 100GROWMARK In 2015: Back, To The Future
March 2, 2015
The nation’s third largest ag retail organization is simultaneously moving forward while remembering its past. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Expands Sanders Brand In The South
February 27, 2015
Pinnacle has acquired Hopkins Seed and Chemical in Qulin, MO, which expands the company's Sanders brand to nine Southern states. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Launches New Providence Agriculture Location In Indiana
February 27, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings — ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100 — has established a new retail location in New Castle, IN, which will operate as part of Pinnacle's Providence Agriculture brand. Read More
Carl Casale of CHS
CropLife 100Cooperative CHS Returns $518 Million To Owners
February 23, 2015
The 2015 cash return to owners is based on CHS net income of $1.1 billion, the company's second highest on record. Read More
Latest News
FungicidesSyngenta Suing Willowood Over Azoxystrobin Fungicide
March 27, 2015
Syngenta announced today that it has sued agrochemical maker Willowood, LLC., for patent and copyright infringement, as well as unfair Read More
ManagementRetail Week: The Future Of Mycogen Seeds; The 4Rs At Na…
March 27, 2015
Editors Eric Sfiligoj and Matt Hopkins discuss recent trips, including a look at the future of Mycogen Seeds at Dow Read More
Eric SfiligojMonsanto Hears The WHO
March 27, 2015
Another challenge to the safety of glyphosate, and the responses from supporters and opponents, calls to mind a classic Dr. Seuss story. Read More
Industry NewsMonty’s Plant Food Expands Sales Team
March 27, 2015
Monty’s Plant Food Company, a leader in natural soil enhancement and  plant fertility products, has hired Andrew Bullock as a Read More
Crop InputsSyngenta Louisiana Plant Poised For 2015 Production
March 26, 2015
As the 2015 planting season gets underway, growers across the country will need crop protection products to combat pests and Read More
Lake Erie Nutrient Stewardship
LegislationOhio Lawmakers Finalize Phosphorus Restrictions
March 25, 2015
State lawmakers on Wednesday finalized new rules designed to curb toxic algal blooms on Lake Erie, calling the regulations a major step forward in addressing the problem. Read More
Spreaders17 Fertilizer Spreaders For 2015
March 25, 2015
Manufacturers shoot for versatility and accuracy in this year's crop of fertilizer spreaders. Read More
Industry NewsMonty’s Hires Mid-South Product Consultant
March 25, 2015
Monty's Plant Food Co. has hired Matt Woodring as a Product Consultant for portions of Central Kentucky and Tennessee.    Read More
StewardshipMapShots Integrates With DriftWatch
March 23, 2015
Growers and agricultural providers using AgStudio FARM and AgStudio PRO can now view vital information about specialty crops and apiaries through a recent integration with the DriftWatch Specialty Crop Site Registry from FieldWatch, Inc. Read More
Crop InputsWorld Health Organization Report Contradicts Scientific…
March 23, 2015
A new report from the World Health Organization has classified glyphosate with a “2A” rating as a probable carcinogen, a Read More
Eric SfiligojSeed Treatment Stays Necessary
March 20, 2015
Grower-customers looking to scale back spending in 2015 won’t consider seed treatment, say experts. Read More
HerbicidesMARCH MADNESS: Industry Rallies Around Glyphosate Safet…
March 20, 2015
A newly published report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies the herbicide glyphosate as a "2A-rated possible carcinogen" and the ag industry responds by circling the wagons. Read More
ManagementRetail Week: Precision survey, a technology acquisition…
March 20, 2015
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sflilgoj discuss recent travel, the upcoming precision adoption survey, and an unusual sighting at a Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT Commemorates National Ag Day
March 20, 2015
The Illinois agriculture community gathered at BRANDT global headquarters on March 18 to celebrate National Ag Day behind this year's theme Sustaining Future Generations. Read More
Crop InputsBioSafe Launching TerraGrow Soil Inoculant
March 20, 2015
TerraGrow is a blend of beneficial bacterial and fungal spores and nutrients carefully designed to promote healthier soil and crops. Read More
Winter Wheat
AdjuvantsMax Systems Debuts New Adjuvant NanoRevolution 2.0
March 18, 2015
Added to a tank mix of glyphosate at the conservative rate of two to four ounces per acre, NanoRevolution 2.0 has proven effective in killing resistant weed species that had already had up to two applications of the leading glyphosate product. Read More
Photo credit: United Soybean Board/the Soybean Checkoff
Seed/BiotechAgnition Launches Microbial Catalyst Seed Treatment
March 18, 2015
Agnition it has launched Commence for Soybeans, a microbial catalyst seed treatment for soybeans that stimulates microbial activity for healthier soil and a superior growth environment. Read More
4R Certified, Nutrient Stewardship Council,
StewardshipTyler Grain & Fertilizer Now 4R Certified
March 18, 2015
The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program has announced Tyler Grain & Fertilizer Co. in Smithville, OH, has been added to Read More