A Snapshot Of Aerial Application

Aerial Application Plane, Air Tractor

This summer, CropLife editors sent out a brief survey to our enewsletter readers to better understand the impact aerial application is having on ag retailers, especially in light of this market’s substantial growth in the last five years. While not all 126 respondents answered all 10 questions, they still provided solid information for us to work with. We thank the owners and managers who took the time to share their input. We received almost equal responses between cooperatives and independent dealerships, with a number of returns coming from firms that are a part of a national or regional chain of retailers (not coops).

The responses only highlight the importance of aerial work, with fully 88% of companies saying they used the services of an aerial application professional in the last two years.

What were the operators’ assignments? Fungicides, baby! Preventive fungicide application on corn was number one with 77% of the retailers saying they did this work for customers. Fifty-four percent made preventive fungicide application on soybeans.

But just over half (52%) came in with rescue applications of insecticides on corn and/or soybeans, proving this is still a vital need, even with the widespread use of genetically engineered crops.

Apart from the buzz about fungicides, aerial is also important in herbicide application as well, with 45% of dealers saying they used it on a variety of crops. Then, too, ag airplanes put down a considerable amount of fertilizer — 41% of companies told us they did this service for growers, a good portion perhaps going on rice fields in the South.

In our discussions with aerial experts and pilots for this report, one thing that frustrated operators was how retailers and growers don’t plan well enough for applications. Tony Goede, aerial manager at BASF Corp., estimates a whopping 70% of work is “last minute,” scheduled within a week or two of the need. Retailers in our survey (82%) said they do plan as much as possible but rely on rescue applications as well. Almost 10% admitted they “rarely” plan aerial work and count more on rescues. In fact, 8% said they only use aerial services for rescue applications.

Survey respondents had strikingly positive words about the quality of service they’ve received from aerial professionals. An impressive 84% say they felt the work was “very good” or “exceptional.” The applications were deemed “acceptable” by 12%, and “fair” by 4%. It is a testament to aerial professionals that none of the retailers surveyed rated their work “not acceptable.”

Power Of The Planes

While ag aircraft have been evolving into powerful, cutting-edge machines over the past several years, the majority of our surveyed retailers did not seem too concerned about what kind of planes aerial applicators use. When asked if the aircraft type used influences the decision to work with an aerial company, 74% said no. The plane utilized was a deciding factor for 26% of retailers.

Many of today’s operators are flying Air Tractor and Thrush aircraft with turbine engines that can cover large stretches of fields quickly — an imperative as treated acreage continue to grow. But single and double piston planes from companies such as Cessna and Pawnee continue to service the industry as well.

A portion of our aerial report this month focuses on whether retailers should contract with an aerial firm or purchase their own planes. Of those we surveyed, 81% do not have an in-house aerial application service, while 19% do.

Our report will show the commitment to building your own aerial segment is absolutely huge. Our surveyed retailers understand that: 61% of them saying they have “no plans” to even consider the move. Four percent did consider the possibility, but decided not to move ahead.

But, alas, the business and scheduling control promised by having your own planes is enticing. Just over 3% of retailers responding said they are seriously considering the investment; 17% have discussed the possibility, and 15% said they have not considered an in-house aerial segment yet, but “may in the future.”

Speaking Out

We posed one open-ended question to our surveyed readers: “In a few words, what is the biggest challenge you deal with in working with an aerial application professional?” The number one response was timeliness, followed by reliability/dependability, then by accuracy. Retailers obviously want the job done promptly by committed, trained applicators. We will see in this report how pinpointing grower customers’ needs as much as possible in the fall and winter would be a real help in getting work done on time.

The next most important traits our respondents look for in pilots are professionalism and honesty. The pilots we talked with are committed to both. For survey respondents, professionalism is evidenced in part by being “clean and neat (that way I know he cares)” and “not a showman” or not “crazy.” Retailers also valued a partnering relationship with aerial applicators that are “transparent, easy to do business with,” and offer “good communication.” As we will see, building relationships via regular and honest communication goes far in getting jobs done right.

Perhaps surprisingly, experience and equipment were not widely mentioned as challenges for respondents — though accuracy could certainly be a sign of experience. It seems retailers trust the skills and planes most of today’s pilots possess, but the aerial operators we interviewed highly encouraged retailers to do research on both.

Leave a Reply

Aerial Application Stories

Aerial ApplicationAerial Application Special Report – Sponsored by Air Tractor
September 1, 2012
As the 2012 season winds down in the United States, the trend I’ve seen in previous years continues...more and more growers are choosing aerial application to control diseases and pests. Read More

Trending Articles

EquipmentSummer Show Preview 2014: Superior Sprayers Take The Field
July 3, 2014
In this final installment of our coverage of the major categories of Big IRON that retailers can expect to test-drive at this summer’s events, here is a look at 19 sprayers. Read More
Scouting a soybean patch at Green Valley Ag.
EmployeesCropLife Compensation Survey: Battling Talent Drain
July 2, 2014
Retailers too often lose employees to companies outside of agriculture, while recruiting efforts are most often limited to competitors and other ag-focused organizations. Read More
HerbicidesDow AgroSciences Introduces SureStart II Herbicide
June 16, 2014
The enhanced formulation has improved viscosity and increased stability under heat and controls more than 60 high-anxiety grasses and broadleaf weeds found in corn fields. Read More
HerbicidesBASF Investing $270 Million To Expand U.S. Herbicide Production
June 11, 2014
BASF has invested more than $270 million to expand herbicide production capacities in the U.S., including more than 20 new products to be launched over next two years. Read More
EquipmentGPS: 25 Years And Still Growing
June 2, 2014
The evolution of global positioning systems applications in agriculture remains ongoing as the technology hits a notable milestone. Read More
CropLife 10013 Key Acquisitions Pinnacle Has Made In The First Half Of 2014
May 29, 2014
The only thing that has reached a more frenzied pace than #plant14 might be the multiple acquisitions that Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings has made in the first half of the year. Read More

Latest News

EquipmentPrecisionAg.com Relaunches With Responsive Design For M…
July 22, 2014
PrecisionAg, the worldwide leader in precision agriculture information and analysis, announces the launch of its completely redesigned website, PrecisionAg.com. Read More
FungicidesEPA OKs Two Willowood Fungicides
July 21, 2014
The EPA has approved Willowood Azoxy 2SC and Willowood AzoxyProp Xtra. two widely used broad spectrum, preventative fungicides with systemic and curative properties. Read More
Precision AgFarmers Learning Fast As UAVs Take Off
July 17, 2014
Farmers and others interested in how UAVs can be used in agricultural applications were able to learn more about the technology during the recent Precision Aerial Ag Show. Read More
CropLife 100Bobby Knight, Richard Petty To Highlight Ag PhD Field D…
July 17, 2014
Attendees at the July 24 Ag PhD Field Day at Hefty Farms will learn about the latest agricultural technologies, and get a chance to meet legendary sports figures Bobby Knight and Richard Petty. Read More
WebinarsUpcoming Webinars
July 17, 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
A finished Willmar 16-ton side-shooting tender.
TendersNew Production Facility Helps Willmar
July 17, 2014
In 1963, a group of businessmen started Willmar. Today, a half-century later, the company is one of the ag industry’s longest-running brands. Read More
FertilizerCF Industries Sells Carbon Credits To Chevrolet, Donate…
July 17, 2014
CF Industries has completed the sale of a large block of carbon reduction credits to Chevrolet, and will donate the net proceeds of $600,000 to the National FFA Foundation. Read More
CropLife 100Grainland Cooperative, Minier Cooperative Grain To Merg…
July 17, 2014
The shareholders of Grainland Cooperative and Minier Cooperative Grain Co. approved a merger of company operations effective August 1, 2014. Read More
ManagementStudy: Drought Costing California Billions
July 17, 2014
A new study has found the drought has cost the state $2.2 billion, primarily in lost farm revenue and wages. Read More
FertilizerCF Industries Resumes Production At Oklahoma Nitrogen C…
July 17, 2014
The company had shut down production at the Woodward, OK, facility in April to address an issue in one of the site’s boilers. Read More
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis To Relocate Agribusiness Division To Denve…
July 16, 2014
The move Eastward will allow Wilbur-Ellis’ Agribusiness Division to be more accessible to relevant geographies and is expected to enhance communication and collaboration among the division’s nearly 3,000 employees. Read More
Soybean field
FungicidesValent Launches New Seed Protection Fungicide For Soybe…
July 16, 2014
The INTEGO SUITE System contains the first new, novel seed protection fungicide chemistry registered in 30 years by the EPA for protection against Pythium and Phytophthora. Read More
Crop InputsSyngenta Drive To Thrive 10 Finalists Announced
July 15, 2014
Finalists are chosen based on the quality of their essays and photos depicting what makes them thrive. Read More
FertilizerHow To Minimize Phosphorus Losses In Runoff
July 15, 2014
Phosphorus losses from agricultural fields can be divided into three categories: flash losses of soluble phosphorus, slow leak losses and erosion events. Here's how to minimize losses in each instance. Read More
ManagementCalifornia Drought Threatens To Dry Up Farm Wells
July 15, 2014
Farmers hit hardest by California's drought could begin to see wells run dry next year, according to a new study by The Center for Watershed Sciences at the University of California, Davis. Read More
Precision AgPoll: Do you plan to attend this year’s InfoAg Co…
July 14, 2014
This year’s InfoAg Conference is just two weeks away. The premier event in precision agriculture takes place July 29-31 at Read More
LegislationFarm Bill Implementation Continues
July 14, 2014
The bill provides $28 billion over the next five years for conservation on private lands while streamlining several old programs and creating new ones like the Regional Conservation Partnership Program. Read More
MicronutrientsH.J. Baker Continues Expansion Of Atmore Facility
July 14, 2014
The company has improved its molten sulphur unloading system to help meet increased sulphur demand at Tiger-Sul’s Atmore, AL, facility. Read More