Fighting Drift On Multiple Fronts

Applicators have plenty on their minds when they hit the field for a job. But recently spray drift has been demanding more attention, thanks in part to regulators’ and the public’s perception of it.

One of the most pressing regulatory challenges for all applicators is EPA’s proposed changes to spray drift guidelines listed on labels. They currently say, “Do not apply this product in a way that will contact workers or other persons, either directly or through drift.” Industry stakeholders such as the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture had requested clarification on how to interpret and enforce these instructions. A label change released for comment in 2009 stated: “In addition, do not apply this product in a manner that results in spray [or dust] drift that could cause an adverse effect to people or any non-target organism or site.”

Does the wording help? Applicators think not. David Eby of Agriflite, Wa­karusa, IN, sees the guideline as a “jobs bill for attorneys and additional state employees — investigators. It would have a dramatic chilling effect on pesticide applications with resulting reduced food production.” He shared these thoughts with EPA in a letter during the agency’s public comment period. Eby and hundreds of other responders have sent input — generating such a strong response EPA may need to delay action. In fact, the original comment period deadline was extended four times and at last check ended March 5. At presstime an EPA spokesperson said staff are still reading and considering comments — and more comment time may yet be added.

Things To Come

Still ahead is closure on a January 2009 court decision (National Cotton Council vs. EPA) that National Pollu­tant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting — part of the Clean Water Act — be required for ag pesticide applicators. The regulations call for permits to apply products on, over, or near water sources. CropLife America and other industry groups argue that these applications are already effectively regulated by EPA under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).

The U.S. Supreme Court was petitioned to review the ruling but refused. The final decision by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals is stayed until April 2011.

Retailers and applicators used words like “disaster” and “nightmare” when asked about the prospect of getting NPDES permits. “The process is ignoring FIFRA and what it stands for,” says aerial applicator Schertz.

Brian Rau of Medina Flying Service, Medina, ND, notes that the word “near” in “near water” has not been clarified so far by EPA and will be a problem. “There’s always the concern some entity will attempt to use the word to cause trouble, limit application, or litigate,” Rau says.

Eby also believes it is unfair that applicators are unjustly targeted and held solely responsible in drift claims, when manufacturers, EPA, crop advisors, and growers all play a role.

Jason Paris, crop protection department head at MFA Inc., Columbia, MO, believes every retailer needs to be involved in state or industry associations to stay abreast of new regulations — and to help educate those in charge of creating these new laws. “And we have to make sure we are good stewards on our own without any more pressure from EPA.”

Some retailers admit feeling pressure from other sources, including state regulatory agencies. One such case: This spring, Land­mark Agronomy was called to Madison, WI, to meet with state Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) officials. The regulators presented a complaint from a grower-customer’s neighbor that a Land­mark 2,4-D application had damaged a line of oak trees.

Landmark’s team ran through its own multi-faceted investigation of the incident. “Everything we did was just spot-on, we couldn’t have done the application more perfect,” says Landmark’s Jim Shelton. For example, winds actually blew away from the trees in question, and wind speed clocked in below label guidelines. Drift reduction nozzles were used in combination with a drift retardant to further protect the field’s surroundings.

Ultimately, DATCP found problems in its own case that day — including the discovery that the grower himself had sprayed a growth regulator with a similar mode of action to 2,4-D just about a week before damage appeared. Landmark’s application had occurred a month before. A final ruling is still pending.

Proven Strategies

Shelton says his company has taken an aggressive stance against drift since the advent of Roundup Rea­dy soybeans in the late 1990s. “We have pretty much made drift retardants mandatory with all Roundup/glypho­sate applications,” he says. In fact, drift retardants are used with many products.

Some cost-conscious growers hesitate to spend the extra money (about $1 to $1.50 per acre) for retardants, but if a customer demands that Landmark not use one, he has to sign a release. If a drift event occurs, the grower must take total responsibility for it, including damages and any fines from DATCP.

“Sales of deposition products or products containing deposition aids have increased dramatically over the last several years,” reports MFA Inc.’ Paris.

Todd Kautzman, owner, Mott Grain Co., Mott, ND, swears by drift retardants, noting: “We’ve never sprayed an acre without one.” The company treats some 50,000 to 60,000 acres a year of small grains, including wheat, canola, and flax, using Coverage G-20 and In-Place. Kautzman has found the products can make up for less-than-ideal conditions, provide drift control, and get “more chemical on the plant.”

He doesn’t even ask customers if they want a drift retardant. “We don’t bill the customer for it. It’s insurance for us,” he explains. But Kautzman finds it easy to convince customers of the value of retardants, showing videos and photos — some shot on windy days — of the products’ efficacy to growers at company meetings. And his operators, skeptical at first about the technology, now “won’t even get into my equipment and spray unless they can use a drift retardant.”

And some large advances have come in sprayer nozzle design over the last few years. Shelton says Landmark selects nozzle types that reduce drift, including air induction nozzles. Air inclusion, air induction, or venturi nozzles are flat fan nozzles where an internal venturi creates negative pressure inside the nozzle body, explains Andrew Landers, pesticide application technology specialist, Cornell University. “Air is drawn into the nozzle through one or two holes in the nozzle side, mixing with the spray liquid. The emitted spray contains large droplets filled with air bubbles (similar to a candy malt ball) and virtually no fine, drift-prone droplets,” says Landers. He adds that the droplets explode on impact with leaves and can produce similar coverage to conventional, finer sprays.

Kautzman used air induction nozzles some four or five years ago, even putting on demonstrations and promoting them before drift retardants came on the scene. Now he has mixed feelings. “These nozzles are excellent for drift control, but what we found was that in order to reduce drift, they produce a larger droplet — which is harder to blow away — but the problem with that is in a lot of cases, we didn’t get the chemical coverage on the plant,” he says. “We saw a reduction in control or effectiveness of the product we used.”

Kautzman has had the most success with a very good stainless steel flat fan nozzle, with product running through at 30 to 40 pounds of pressure to reduce drift. He says an air induction tip calls for 60 to 90 pounds of pressure, which can also present coverage problems.

Aerial applicator Mike Lee, Earl’s Flying Service, Steele, MO, says his company has changed spray tips on its airplanes — to a bigger tip and fewer nozzles per plane. “The larger tip is safer and more efficient,” he’s found.

“Our firm has slowly used large and larger droplet spectrums,” says Mike Schiffer, Al’s Aerial Spraying, Ovid, MI. He points out that with an adequate volume of carrier, the larger drops ensure more of the material is placed on the intended crop. “That helps provide the coverage lost by using larger drops, and it means less product drift,” he says.

Many aerial applicators have developed their own innovations to reduce drift. Agriflite’s Eby designed his own spray tips and check valves several years ago. Sold under the AeroFlow brand name, they’ve become some of the most commonly used in the industry.

JR Reabe of Reabe Spraying Service Inc., Plover, WI, has adopted an idea out of Australia that allows pilots to change from a coarse droplet spectrum to a medium or fine droplet spectrum and back while in flight. “This allows us to use coarse droplets on a drift-sensitive edge of a field, but use finer droplets on the rest of the field,” explains Reabe.

Newest Approaches

A huge part of preventing drift damage is simply knowing where product shouldn’t go. A new tool for communicating this is the Driftwatch Web site (www.driftwatch.org), developed by Purdue University. In Indiana, growers of sensitive crops — as well as managers of sensitive habitats — register their acreage on the site, then pesticide applicators can easily locate them using a Google Maps interface. Cost for ramping up a state’s page is just $25,000, and EPA is already putting money into the project.

Driftwatch maps are incorporated into AgSync, a new online software concept developed by Eby and supported by BASF. The product allows applicators to create a shape file of the field to be sprayed, then the shape file boundary is imported to a GPS computer. The applicator is then alerted to a sensitive area prior to spraying, allowing time to modify plans. It is currently being used in 15 states.

Scott Schertz, Schertz Aerial, Hud­son, IL, is using new mapping technology to put known or suspected drift-sensitive sites on a base map, so “it does not matter who prepares the map, problem areas won’t slip through anyone’s attention.” He notes that such improvements come at a cost. “The overhead for this business has at least tripled. It takes lots of staff time to mark maps and coordinate activities,” he says.

Michigan’s Schiffer is happy that on-board weather data is now a reality, thanks to systems that measure and record wind speed, wind direction, humidity, and temperature. Coupled with DGPS, his computer can create models predicting droplet movement — then plot aircraft flight accordingly.

Topics:

Leave a Reply

Nozzles Stories
Nozzles18 Spray Nozzles That Reduce Drift, Optimize Coverage
May 7, 2014
This year’s line-up of tips feature the versatility to handle any spray job. View photos and product descriptions of the latest nozzles on the market in our slideshow. Read More
NozzlesChanging Crop Protection Landscape Demands Drift Advances
May 1, 2014
New weed control systems and growing public pressure mean technologies to minimize drift can’t come fast enough. Read More
Screen captures of Greenleaf Technologies’s mobile application app for agriculture on iPhone showing the home screen and an example result from their Nozzle Calculator called ‘NozzleCalc
NozzlesGreenleaf Launches Free NozzleCalc App
January 16, 2014
Quickly calculate sprayer settings for TurboDrop and AirMix nozzles anywhere with the new Greenleaf Technologies Nozzle Calculator app. Read More
NozzlesTeeJet Technologies Launches New Droplet Size Monitor, Guidance System
July 24, 2013
TeeJet has unveiled two new products: the Sentry 6120 Droplet Size Monitor, which helps operators improve spray applications, and the Matrix Pro GS guidance system with enhanced swath control. Read More
Top 100 Articles
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
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
corn field
CropLife 100The Andersons’ Humic DG Now Available In Canada
February 13, 2015
The Andersons, Inc. Turf & Specialty Group has announced its Humic DG product is now available to customers in the Canadian turf, agriculture and horticulture markets. Read More
Latest News
RR2X soybeans surround untreated check (center)
Industry NewsArysta Hires New Midwest Territory Sales Manager
March 5, 2015
Arysta LifeScience North America recently named Jonathan “Jon” Tone as the Territory Sales Manager in the Midwest sales region. Read More
Fertilizer360 Yield Center: Try These 5 Steps To Fine Tune Nitrog…
March 5, 2015
Yield Center 360 advises that an effective nitrogen management plan needs to focus on how much N a particular field and corn crop needs, as well as how to properly manage N throughout the growing season — with adjustments along the way. Read More
Precision AgFarmobile Coming Online In 2015
March 5, 2015
A new startup is looking to make collecting and selling ag data a more rewarding proposition for growers. Read More
Crop InputsCommodity Classic 2015 Sets Attendance High Mark
March 4, 2015
With nearly 8,000 total attendees, the 2015 Commodity Classic convention and trade show, which took place last week in Phoenix, AZ, shattered previous records for the landmark event, Read More
Young corn plants
FertilizerNew Nitrogen Stabilizer From Simplot Protects Fertilize…
March 4, 2015
By using OmniPierce Technology, Eclipse-N from Simplot Grower Solutions coats and protects more nitrogen, increasing nitrogen efficiency and decreasing loss due to volatilization. Read More
Industry NewsOhio Corn And Wheat Growers Association, Ohio Soybean A…
March 4, 2015
The associations truly appreciate the comprehensive approach and diligent work that the Ohio House of Representatives has dedicated to addressing water quality and House Bill 61. Read More
Mahindra Implement
Industry NewsMahindra USA Aligns With Paladin Attachment For Impleme…
March 4, 2015
Mahindra USA will begin utilizing Paladin Attachments as its implement supplier in April 2015. Read More
Crop InputsValent BioSciences Acquires Mycorrhizal Applications
March 4, 2015
The acquisition adds another strategic platform to VBC’s rapidly expanding global biorational business, providing additional tools for the Biorational Window platform being developed with its parent, Sumitomo Chemical Co., Ltd. Read More
Nutrients for Life Foundation - Plant Nutrient on the Farm Station
Industry NewsNutrients For Life Foundation Launches New Station Prog…
March 4, 2015
This ready-to-implement station provides an interactive opportunity for farms to showcase crop nutrients’ important role in growing healthy crops. Read More
Adjuvants loading
AdjuvantsAdjuvants Continue Upward Trend
March 4, 2015
A dizzying array of developments in crop protection technologies promise to make specialty adjuvants a crucial piece of the puzzle going forward. Read More
Wheat Growers, North Central Farmers Elevator Pursue Merger
CropLife 100Wheat Growers, North Central Farmers Elevator Pursue Me…
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
10 Tips for Spring Planter Preparation
Equipment10 Tips For Spring Planter Preparation
March 3, 2015
Kinze Manufacturing offers advice on how to ensure your planter is ready before you hit the field. Read More
Industry NewsOABA 2015 LAUNCH Program Recognizes 20 New Graduates
March 3, 2015
Twenty Ohio agribusiness leaders are being recognized as the latest graduates of Ohio AgriBusiness Association’s LAUNCH program. Read More
EquipmentNew AGCO Website Helps Customers Shop For Certified Pre…
March 3, 2015
RoGator sprayers are among the wide range of CPO equipment available through AGCO's site. Read More
Enlist spray Demo
HerbicidesGuiding New Herbicide Systems’ Launches
March 3, 2015
Under careful watch, the new 2,4-D- and dicamba-tolerant crops hit more acres this season. Read More
Eric SfiligojCommodity Classic 2015: Playing The Waiting Game
March 2, 2015
There was plenty of future-talk at this year’s event as companies (and growers) are largely in a holding pattern of sorts. Read More
Industry NewsHighway Equipment Appoints New Director Of Business Dev…
March 2, 2015
Cory Venable, who joined Highway Equipment Company (HECO) in 2013 as OEM Account Manager, has been promoted to Director of Business Development. Read More
Prairieland FS employees
Eric SfiligojWorkforce Worries
March 2, 2015
Finding good employees almost always ranks as the No. 1 or No. 2 problem for ag retailers in our annual CropLife 100 survey. Read More