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

Equipment2014 Product Of The Year Voting
September 19, 2014
Many new products were introduced to the ag retail marketplace this year. From this group, CropLife IRON and its consulting partners have selected five finalists for the Product of the Year award. 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
MAGIE 2014 ShowStopper
EquipmentJohn Deere Again Wins MAGIE ShowStopper Award
August 25, 2014
For the second consecutive year, John Deere was honored at the Midwest AG Industries Exposition (MAGIE) for its new R4045 sprayer. Read More
EquipmentDeere Announces Factory Layoffs
August 18, 2014
Deere & Co. has announced it will reduce the size of its manufacturing workforce at some agricultural equipment factories in response to current market demand for its products. Read More

Trending Articles

Equipment2014 Product Of The Year Voting
September 19, 2014
Many new products were introduced to the ag retail marketplace this year. From this group, CropLife IRON and its consulting partners have selected five finalists for the Product of the Year award. Please cast your vote today to help us determine the winner. Read More
FertilizerFall Fertility 2014: Forecasting Fertilizer Use
September 7, 2014
Great crops this year have tapped the soil, and fall work is definitely called for, but how challenging will that get? Read More
CropLife 100CHS To Build $3 Billion Fertilizer Plant In North Dakota
September 5, 2014
The fertilizer plant in Spiritwood will be the single largest investment in CHS history, as well as the single largest private investment project ever undertaken in North Dakota. Read More
EquipmentNew Holland Acquires Miller-St. Nazianz
September 3, 2014
The assets of Miller acquired as part of the transaction will become part of New Holland Agriculture, a CNH Industrial brand, building on a successful four-year partnership between the two companies. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Acquires East Kansas Chemical
September 2, 2014
Ranked 82nd on the CropLife 100, East Kansas Chemical will operate as part of Pinnacle's Performance Agriculture brand. Read More
MAGIE 2014 ShowStopper
EquipmentJohn Deere Again Wins MAGIE ShowStopper Award
August 25, 2014
For the second consecutive year, John Deere was honored at the Midwest AG Industries Exposition (MAGIE) for its new R4045 sprayer. Read More

Latest News

Syngenta
Crop InputsSyngenta Launches Plant Breeding Academy
October 1, 2014
Syngenta announces the release of its Breeding Academy, a global initiative designed to enable the continued development of scientists at Syngenta and beyond. Read More
FertilizerFertilizer Outlook And Technology Conference Set For No…
September 30, 2014
Conference participants can expect to gain perspective on the outlook for agriculture and major fertilizer materials and inputs from industry experts. Read More
MicronutrientsVerdesian Acquires Micronutrient Supplier
September 30, 2014
Verdesian Life Sciences has acquired QC Corp., a producer and supplier of granular and dry micronutrients and ferrous sulfate products. Read More
Eric SfiligojHearing From Young Ag Voices
September 30, 2014
Potential future leaders in ag retail had the chance to shine at the recent Mid America CropLife Association meeting. Read More
WebinarsUpcoming Webinars
September 30, 2014
Register for one of our upcoming Webinars or access our archive of past Webinars to view recordings of presentations that may be of interest to you. Read More
Crop InputsSyngenta Appoints New Chief Operating Officer
September 29, 2014
Jon Parr will succeed retiring COO John Atkin at the end of the year. Read More
CropLife 100South Dakota Wheat Growers To Add Grain-Agronomy Facili…
September 26, 2014
Planned to be constructed in Kennebec, the facility will be located along the soon-to-be rehabilitated line of heavy-rail service from Chamberlain to Presho. Read More
CropLife 100GROWMARK Announces Vice President Appointments
September 25, 2014
Two individuals have been appointed Vice President positions on the GROWMARK executive team. Read More
FertilizerFertilizer Industry Organizations Join Global Alliance …
September 25, 2014
The Fertilizer Institute, the International Plant Nutrition Institute and the International Fertilizer Industry Association are encouraging the industry to promote the proper use of fertilizer products to minimize their environmental impact. Read More
Precision AgARA Organized Precision Forum Hits Capitol Hill
September 24, 2014
The Coalition for the Advancement of Precision Agriculture (CAPA) hosted its inaugural Precision Ag Forum, Sept. 18, in Washington, D.C. Read More
FertilizerFactors To Consider When Placing Fertilizer With Seed
September 24, 2014
The type of crop, fertilizer source, row spacing and soil environment all affect how much fertilizer can be safely applied with seed. Read More
FertilizerSidedressing Manure Into Corn Has Promising Results
September 24, 2014
Applying manure to growing crops can boost yields, reduce nutrient losses and give livestock producers another window of time to apply manure to farm fields. Read More
FertilizerWhen To Sample Manure For Analysis
September 24, 2014
Because the goal is to collect a sample that represents the manure actually being applied, the best time to sample is during loading or field application. Here's why. Read More
Syngenta
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Faces Second Lawsuit Over Agrisure Viptera Cor…
September 23, 2014
A second company has sued Syngenta AG over sales of genetically modified corn seed not approved by China. Read More
StewardshipCover Crops Field Guide For Farmers Expanded
September 23, 2014
Farmers interested in planting cover crops to improve soil health now have an updated and expanded resource in the second edition of the Midwest Cover Crops Field Guide. Read More
HerbicidesArysta LifeScience Launches Contest For Wheat Growers
September 23, 2014
The Flush after Flush Photo Finish contest encourages farmers across the U.S. to participate through Instagram or Twitter using the hashtag #FlushAfterFlush. Read More
FertilizerCF Industries Confirms Merger Of Equals Discussions Wit…
September 23, 2014
CF Industries Holdings, Inc. has confirmed that it is in preliminary discussions with Yara International regarding a potential merger of equals transaction. Read More
StewardshipProgram To Examine Ag-Related Practices, Policies To Pr…
September 22, 2014
A panel discussion on October 14 will include a significant discussion on key issues and solutions related to all aspects of harmful algal blooms. Read More