A Snapshot Of Aerial Application

Aerial Application Plane, Air TractorThis 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

Matt Hopkins15 Best New Agriculture Apps Worth Downloading In 2014
December 16, 2013
These latest agriculture apps are sure to help ag professionals do their jobs more efficiently in 2014 and beyond. Read More
Seed/BiotechMonsanto Offers New Support For Ferguson, Area Communities
October 8, 2014
Monsanto Co. has committed $1 million in new support for several collaborative efforts in Ferguson, MO, and surrounding communities in North St. Louis County. Read More
Seed/BiotechUnapproved Genetically Modified Wheat Found In Montana
October 3, 2014
USDA reports that one year after discovery of Monsanto's unapproved wheat in a single Oregon field disrupted U.S. wheat export sales, the GMO wheat has again been found in Montana. Read More
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

Latest News

Seed/BiotechSyngenta Ranked A Top 10 Biotech Employer For Third tim…
October 20, 2014
Syngenta ranked in the top 10 among the world’s top biotech employers, according to an annual survey conducted by Science magazine. Read More
CropLife 100Wheat Growers Break Ground For New Facility At Kennebec
October 20, 2014
Wheat Growers has broke ground for a state-of-the-art shuttle loader grain handling, fertilizer and agronomy facility in Kennebec, SD. Read More
FertilizerVerdesian Life Sciences Signs Agreement With Los Alamos…
October 20, 2014
Verdesian Life Sciences has signed a licensing agreement with Los Alamos National Laboratory to develop and market LANL’s latest nitrogen enhancement technology for plants. Read More
MicronutrientsStoller Group Announces Groundbreaking At New Office Bu…
October 20, 2014
Jerry Stoller, founder and president of Stoller Group, announced the groundbreaking at the site of the company’s future headquarters in Read More
Crop InputsBioSafe Systems Opens New Production Facility In Nevada
October 20, 2014
BioSafe Systems has completed construction of a state-of-art production facility in Sparks, NV, for its line of activated peroxygen products. Read More
Crop InputsPlatform Specialty Products To Acquire Arysta LifeScien…
October 20, 2014
Once the acquisition is complete, Platform Specialty Products will combine Arysta LifeScience with previously acquired companies Agriphar and Chemtura Crop Solutions. Read More
Seed/BiotechEPA Approves Dow’s Enlist Duo Herbicide
October 15, 2014
The Enlist Weed Control System, breakthrough technology to fight resistant and tough weeds, has received the long-awaited green light from federal regulatory authorities. Read More
MicronutrientsGypsum On Farms Could Help Keep Water Clean, Not Green
October 14, 2014
Gypsum, which has roots in the past as a farm soil treatment, also may have a bright future, and not just as a booster of crops but also as a protector of water. Read More
Photo credit: The United Soybean Board/The Soybean Checkoff.
Crop InputsVerdesian Grows Sales Staff
October 14, 2014
The new account managers will drive sales growth and support relationships with key customers in the plant nutrition and seed treatment and inoculants product categories. Read More
WebinarsUpcoming Webinars
October 14, 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
CropLife 100The Andersons Purchases Six Grain Elevators, Four Agron…
October 14, 2014
The Andersons has acquired Auburn Bean and Grain of Auburn, MI, which will increase the storage capacity of its Grain Group by about 13%. Read More
StewardshipThree Ohio Ag Retailers Honored With 4R Certification
October 13, 2014
The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program has announced its first three agriculture nutrient service providers to achieve certified status. Read More
Eric SfiligojEntering Agriculture’s New Phase
October 13, 2014
The market’s giddy ride the past few years might be coming to an end in 2015, warns one industry insider. Read More
Eric SfiligojWar And Green Peace
October 11, 2014
A one-time member of Green Peace recently explained why he left the organization after 15 years. Read More
StewardshipCover Crops Add To Farm Sustainability
October 10, 2014
Farmers nationwide find cover crops to be a tool that helps groundwater, prevents erosion, builds soil quality and complements existing best management practices. Read More
EquipmentMeeting Changing Liquid Storage Needs
October 10, 2014
Tank and containment choices are expanding with shifts in farming practices and the economy. Read More
StewardshipEDF Launches Initiative To Reduce Fertilizer Pollution …
October 9, 2014
The effort will engage farmers and businesses throughout the supply chain to transform the way fertilizer-dependent grain crops are grown and sourced. Read More
ManagementMACA 2014: The State Of The Agricultural Industry, And …
October 9, 2014
The trade association’s annual gathering featured speakers from across agriculture and beyond. Read More